Study to focus on polluted indoor air's impact on children

Air pollution in our homes is having a negative impact on children.
Air pollution in our homes is having a negative impact on children.
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With the UK population becoming more aware of the harmful impacts of air pollution, the first major study into the impact of poor indoor air quality on children is set to take place, with experts braced for shocking results.

A new group led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have established the study to monitor more closely the impact of indoor pollution on British children amidst fears that the impacts could be as severe as outdoor pollutants.

There is already evidence of low-quality air increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and other cancers, while there are also strong links to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases which account for almost one in 10 deaths in the under-five age group, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health, especially given indoor air can be three-to-five times more polluted than outside.

“The adverse health consequences on children of outdoor air pollution are now well-established and are influencing policies to reduce exposure," explained Professor Stephen Holgate, Co-Chair of the Indoor Air Quality Working Group. "However, since children spend 80% of their time indoors and with increasing drives to conserve heat with the 'sealing' of homes, pollution exposure indoors becomes a major issue."

Across the European Union, more than two million healthy life years are lost annually, and there are over 9,000 deaths a year due to indoor air pollution, according to latest studies. The report on the new study - due next year - will provide practical recommendations to Government on what can be done to reduce indoor air pollution, focusing on adjusting ventilation, filtering air, and controlling indoor sources of pollution, all of which could reduce health risks by between 20-44%.

“The potential for indoor-generated air pollution to cause major health effects in children cannot now be ignored," said Professor Jonathan Grigg, a paediatric respiratory consultant and Co-Chair of the Working Group. "We will not only consider obvious pollutants such as those generated in cooking and heating, but also environments associated with social deprivation that increase the amount of mould spores in the indoor air.

"For example, in England, the proportion of households living in a dwelling with damp is 3 times higher for those in the lowest income group, compared with those in the highest income group," he added. “Indoor air pollution needs to be taken as seriously as outdoor air pollution.”

Organisations which have pledged funding for the continuation of this project include the British Heart Foundation, Allergy UK, the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Airtopia, and the Mayor of London’s Office.