NICE calls for immediate action on air quality in homes
In January, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance arguing that poor air quality in dwellings is an ‘imminent risk’ to people’s health.
The publication, Indoor air quality at home (NG149), offers recommendations to a range of stakeholders including local authorities, healthcare professionals and ventilation specialists. NICE’s key aim is to raise awareness of the importance of good air quality in homes, and to offer advice on how to achieve it.
The Institute highlights location near high levels of outdoor pollution as significant factor affecting indoor air quality. However, NG149 also points to a number of building-related issues such as layout and orientation; provision of adequate ventilation; presence of damp; and poorly maintained fuel-burning appliances.
NICE calls for a balanced approach to ventilation, insulation and heating in homes. It also asks that local authorities encourage the use of local inspection protocols to identify poor air quality during home visits, which could even include monitoring of pollutant levels.
Education of occupants will be important in alleviating IAQ issues in homes. Solutions include offering advice on understanding the importance of using trickle vents, mechanical ventilation or whole-house mechanical ventilation schemes.
While the NICE guidance is not a legal requirement, the document does call on regulators to update existing building regulations to encompass better indoor air quality in homes. Suggestions include ensuring that all heating and ventilation is installed and commissioned in accordance with manufacturer instructions – and that they are accessible for regular maintenance.
NG149 also highlights areas where it would like to see further research. These include the impacts of air pollutants at home on health; cost effective interventions to improve IAQ in existing homes; and the minimum air exchange rate to minimise the health effects of poor IAQ in homes.
The NICE report arrives at a time when the impact of air quality on health is rising up the political agenda. Also in January 2020, the British Heart Foundation Charity (BHF) stepped up its national campaign linking air pollution with heart health. The BHF is encouraging people to write to their MPs to change the law on pollution levels in the UK.
NG149 not the first report in which NICE has focused on air quality. In 2017, the institute published NG70: Air pollution – outdoor air quality and health. This examined road traffic-related air pollution and its links to ill health.
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