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Poor indoor air quality could increase number with asthma

Poor indoor air quality could cause the number of asthma sufferers to rocket by 80% if regulations are not tightened, says a new report.

According to The Future of Indoor Air Quality in UK Homes and its Impact on Health, poor indoor air quality could cause the number of asthma sufferers to rocket by 80 per cent if regulations are not tightened.

The report highlights that current building regulations are not sufficient to tackle the effect of indoor air pollution on health, and predicts that without intervention the UK could see an 80% increase in asthma sufferers over the next 35 years.

Indoor air quality specialist Professor Hazim Awbi, from the School of the Built Environment at Reading University, also warned that the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could rise to 60% above the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limits for a 24-hour period.

The government is committed in law to an 80% carbon reduction by 2050, and to meet this target homes must become more energy efficient and, therefore, more airtight.

However, building regulations have not properly considered the adverse effects of improved air tightness on indoor air quality and the health of occupants.

Professor Awbi said: ‘‘To avoid a serious and significant increase in asthma cases and other health conditions related to poor indoor air quality, homes must be adequately ventilated.

In addition to the need for mechanical ventilation systems, I would also advise that a minimum air exchange rate that new homes must meet is enforced and there is tighter regulation to ensure systems are properly installed, effectively operated and adequately maintained.’’

Communities and local government shadow minister Liz McInnes said: “The issue of poor indoor air quality on health and particularly its impact on sufferers of asthma is sometimes overlooked by policy makers and health professionals.

“GPs play a crucial role in providing information and guidance to patients, but increasingly important is the role of local councils that are now responsible for public health.

“The conclusions of Professor Awbi’s report need to be fully considered and government, health professionals, local councils and social housing associations need to work together on finding solutions.”

Vent-Axia marketing manager Jenny Smith said it was important that Part F of the Building Regulations keeps step with energy-efficiency regulations to ensure good indoor air quality: “With many people spending the majority of their time indoors, improvements in indoor air quality must be seen as a priority.”

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