Monday, December 20, 2021

UK households encouraged to think about poor indoor air quality as they gather for Christmas

 

  • Building Engineering Services Association is calling on households to consider indoor air quality while gathering with loved ones
  • New research shows that average Christmas Day family gatherings will be 4-6 people
  • 43% of gatherings are set to include up to two households, while 29% will be keep celebrations to just their own household

 

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) is today launching a campaign to encourage UK households to take steps to improve indoor air quality in their homes as they gather with family and friends over the Christmas period. The campaign comes as the UK tackles the threat of Omicron, for which the UK Government may issue further contact restrictions; and as people are set to spend time together indoors of the Christmas period. However, BESA is aiming to raise awareness on the wider issue of indoor air quality, where activities such as cooking your Christmas roast, lighting a scented candle or putting on the wood burning stove, can all play a role in creating poor indoor air quality.

The campaign comes as new research from BESA, released today reveals that UK households plan on taking a cautious approach to their Christmas Day gatherings with family and friends. Across the UK, average gatherings on the big day are set to be made up of people from up to two households, with 4-6 people on average celebrating the day together.

The polling of 2,000 people, undertaken independently by Opinium, revealed that most people are planning to keep their Christmas gatherings limited in the mixing of different households. Over two-fifths (43%) plan on celebrating with just two households, including their own, while 29% plan to celebrate just with their own household. One-fifth (20%) of people plan on spending the day with three different households.

The research also reveals that almost two-fifths (39%) of people are planning to celebrate Christmas Day with 4-6 people. Almost a quarter (24%) of people are planning for celebrations of 2-3 people, while 19% plan on going bigger with 7-9 people.

With the continuing growth in Covid-19 cases in the UK, there remain high concerns regarding the number of people mixing indoors over the Christmas period, and what can be done to help make conditions as safe as possible. One of the key guidelines from Government and health officials while mixing indoors is to simply ensure a window is open to help ventilate and improve indoor air quality.

However, indoor air quality is not just about respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19 or common colds. There are several factors that can affect indoor air quality, some of which may surprise consumers. Activities including burning scented candles or interior dampness and mould, to using cleaning products and allowing external pollutants inside the home such as vehicle emissions, all add up to negatively impact the air we breathe inside our homes.

Commenting on the importance of indoor air quality Graeme Fox, Head of Technical at BESA, said: “If there is one positive outcome from the pandemic, it is the increased awareness on the importance of indoor air quality. But Covid-19 is only the tip of the iceberg, with poor indoor air quality a far bigger problem, one that we are learning more about every day. The impact of indoor air quality on your health and wellbeing can range from hair loss to asthma or even cancer and Alzheimer’s. Just because we cannot see poor indoor air quality in the majority of cases, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A 15-minute exposure to some fine particles can mean that they will travel to every part of your body and remain there for up to three months.

 

“In the short term there are small behavioural changes that people can make such as opening a window while mixing indoors with people, cooking with an extractor fan or using cleaning products and candles that are less toxic, as well as thoroughly ventilating a room after people have left. However, in the long term, we encourage people to start thinking about the bigger picture of indoor air quality within their homes and look at how they can improve ventilation. This can mean ensuring that you are regularly changing the filters on your kitchen extractor fan, getting your bathroom fan inspected, or looking at installing other air filters or mechanical ventilation throughout your home.”

As homeowners get into the festivities of Christmas, BESA has released some of the worst offenders of poor indoor air quality, activities that many people will be taking part in over the coming weeks:

 

  • Cooking Christmas dinner – A study in the U.S.[1] assessed the impact of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, similar to a UK Christmas dinner, on indoor air quality. The study showed that ultrafine particles in the air over a 12-hour period after cooking were 77,000, which is 38 times higher than a normal period with no activities. For Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, the rating was over 30 times worse than in a normal situation.
  • Wood burning stove – When using a wood burning stove, studies[2] have shown daily average PM2.5 levels increasing by nearly 200% and PM1 by 227% versus non-use periods
  • Scented candles – A study of 22 homes in Sweden[3] revealed that in six homes, candles contributed for 60% of the daily exposure to high particle levels for householders.
  • Fragranced consumer products – A study analysing 25 common fragranced products[4] such as laundry, cleaning supplies, air freshener and personal care products found that 133 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were released, with an average of 17 per product.
  • Potpourri – A study found that potpourri can release considerable amounts of solvents, even up to 36 days after first released[5].

The research from BESA also looked into some of the planned activities of households over the Christmas period. Over three-quarters (76%) of people plan to cook a Christmas roast dinner while 56% plan on lighting candles. A further 45% said that they will use a fragranced product at home, while 14% have bought potpourri.

 

[1] https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.0c00740

[2] https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4433/11/12/1326/htm

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231014005834

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195925510001125

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1352231014008796

 

Fox continued: “Across the nation we are all looking forward to spending Christmas with our loved ones. But spending long periods of time indoors with people outside of your household can risk spreading Covid more rapidly. While sharing indoor space, we absolutely recommend following Government guidance and to keep a window open to help ventilate the air. We would also go further and encourage people to fully ventilate their homes once people have left by opening multiple windows and doors to completely circulate the air.”

 

To raise awareness of poor indoor air quality, the causes of it and what steps consumers can take, BESA has published its Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality

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