Over 70% of Brits oblivious to indoor air’s deadly impact

Veolia calls for refinement
to indoor air quality regulatory guidance

Public awareness of the toxicity of the buildings they live and work in is alarmingly low, with 72% of Brits confirming they know very little or nothing on indoor air quality and its effects. At a time when poor indoor air quality will contribute to 20,000 premature deaths in Britain every year.

This research commissioned by an environmental solutions company is published today, as World Environment Day aims to beat air pollution. Veolia calls on the Government to refine its indoor air quality regulatory guidance, aligned to the World Health Organisation’s. There are solutions available, but the lack of monitoring in buildings, aggravated by limited public awareness will continue to have devastating consequences on our health if we don’t act now.

“We can smell car fumes and sometimes we see dust levels outside, but little is known about invisible indoor air pollution and its potential health effects - thought to be eight times more dangerous than outdoor conditions.

Veolia has been monitoring and studying indoor air at a global level for over a decade, and out of the hundreds of buildings we have audited, over 80% have required some corrective action - in the UK it is no different. Our research shows the public are poorly informed on an issue that will affect each and every one of us - we spend 8 hours a day in the buildings, must longer than we spend commuting.

Kirkman continues:

“Current Government advice on indoor air quality is fragmented, ineffective and has been poorly enforced to date. Solutions are available to prevent further indoor air related health impacts, but only if the problem is taken seriously by policy makers and stronger guidelines are imposed. Adopting the WHO’s guidance on indoor air quality will be an important, immediate step in preventing a whole generation from suffering unnecessary ill-health or reduced life expectancy.

“The thing is, we can monitor, test, and remediate air quality in buildings to very safe levels - potentially paying for the clean up with energy savings we implement at the same time - so it doesn’t have to come at a cost!”
Richard Kirkman
Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Veolia UK & Ireland

Veolia’s history with public health goes back more than 100 years with treatment of drinkable water.

In the UK Veolia already delivers a wide range of building optimisation programmes including ‘HVAC’ - heating, ventilation and air conditioning and in our own UK headquarters office we are designing measures to mitigate indoor air quality issues arising.

A recent UK study piloting a bio synthetic CAW (clean air wall), a filtration intervention, highlighted where we can improve air quality along with other measures to improve well-being in offices.

A case in France demonstrated the importance of integrating indoor air quality during renovations. Veolia’s air quality experts were called in to investigate Radio France’s headquarters in Paris after employees and guests felt indisposed in the studios and offices, following the building renovation. Our experts measured the air quality levels in the whole building, identifying pollution sources and proposed solutions to improve indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality on the first stage of the building renovation had significant financial consequences due to the redesign of installations and the non-use of studios during construction work. Veolia's support to Radio France is ongoing and the companies work together to ensure a good indoor air quality at the Maison de la Radio.

More on Veolia’s work on indoor air quality can be found here: https://www.veolia.com/en/solution/improve-indoor-air-quality

YouGov Survey Results:

  • 72% of Brits answered that they either don’t know “much” about the subject of indoor air quality, don’t know anything about it or have never heard about it before.
  • 73% agree the government should develop indoor air quality guidelines for all public buildings
  • 31% of respondents had never heard about the subject of indoor air quality before
  • 55% of respondents aren’t concerned about indoor air quality and their health

Veolia is able to intervene with various types of solutions:

  • Reduce the outdoor air pollutants entry in the building (with specific filters and biotech)
  • Use efficient regularly maintained HVAC systems
  • Decontaminate and clean indoor air with stand alone units
  • Advice to limit the indoor source of air pollution - e.g. appropriate material selection for furniture to avoid formaldehyde; indoor temperature and humidity control; interior design and operation strategies to avoid the impact of indoor air sources like printers
  • Improve behaviour via awareness raising-solutions
  • Ensure systems operation and maintenance

Where does it come from?

Ventilation needs to be cleverly balanced to avoid drawing in outside polluted air and locking into the building, and as we clean up outside air that will improve, however, indoor air quality can be impacted by various sources from carpets, furniture, photocopies and other office machines emitting VOCs (volatile organic compounds), chemicals that you may be able to smell like the smell of a fresh car.  If air cleaning is not set up correctly then pollutants may be concentrated, and exacerbated by a build up of CO2 from humans breathing.