Published: 16 June 2016

Is your home harming you?

A collaborative effort of UK, European and Australian researchers, led by the University of Surrey, has highlighted the harmful effects of indoor pollution and has called for policies to ensure closer monitoring of air quality.

Dr Prashant Kumar, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said:  “When we think of the term ‘air pollution’ we tend to imagine car exhausts or factory fumes expelling grey smoke. However, there are actually various sources of pollution that have a negative effect on air quality, many of which are found inside our homes and offices. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores, the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside.”

In 2012 indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths globally, compared with 3.7 million for outdoor air pollution. Urban dwellers typically spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, and this has been linked to ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ where dwellers exhibit a range of ill health effects related to breathing indoor air. The use of coal and wood for cooking, or microbial contaminants including bacteria and viruses, can cause respiratory disease and reduced cognitive function.

“It is essential that we are able to effectively monitor indoor air pollution so that we can better understand when and where levels are worst, and, in turn, offer solutions to make our air healthier,” said Dr Kumar. “Our work looks at the use of small, low-energy monitoring sensors that would be able to gather real-time data and tell families or workers when levels of pollutants are too high.

“Sometimes the solution to this will be as simple as opening a window, but without knowledge at the right time these simple steps are often skipped. With this research we are calling for greater importance to be placed on ensuring buildings are built with indoor pollution monitoring in mind. As we enter the age of smart cities this is one way in which technology will actively benefit health.”

Read the full paper, Real-time sensors for indoor air monitoring and challenges ahead in deploying them to urban buildings.

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