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Indoor air quality

Find out how to reduce indoor air pollution

About indoor air quality

Whilst we're aware of the dangers of air pollution outside, we can often forget about the pollutants that exist within our home. Types of indoor air pollution include:

  • particulate matter - such as dust and soot
  • gases - such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds found in cleaning products & air fresheners)
  • radon
  • formaldehyde
  • bioaerosols- such as bacteria, fungus, mould and virus

These can be produced through household processes such cooking, cleaning, heating, and DIY.

Who are most at risk?

Poor indoor air quality can lead to a tickly throat, blocked nose and watery eyes, but can have more serious effects on:

  • people with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease
  • pregnant women and unborn babies
  • older people
  • pre-school children
  • people with allergies such as hay fever

How to reduce indoor pollution

There are several simple steps you can take to improve air quality indoors in your home:

Reducing damp and condensation

  • use extractor fans and open windows (if possible and safe)
  • avoid moisture-producing activities (such as air-drying clothes inside) or, if unavoidable, improve ventilation
  • repair any water damage and remove remaining moisture
  • consider using a dehumidifier

Increasing ventilation

It's important to use extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens, or open windows, when:

  • using gas cookers
  • using open solid-fuel heater
  • using candles
  • using cleaning products, household sprays or aerosols and paints
  • having a bath or shower
  • air-drying clothes
  • doing DIY such as painting or sanding wood

It's vital to:

  • follow product instructions if using paint, glue or solvents for DIY and use in a well-ventilated room
  • avoid smoking in the home
  • fit a carbon monoxide detector
  • contact your landlord (if renting) if the ventilation in your home is inadequate or the property is damp
  • remember to dust. Keep surfaces clutter-free for frequent dusting and use a damp cloth to trap any particles
  • choose hard-surface floors which are easier to clean and do not trap allergens, dust or pet hair like carpets
  • vacuum carpets and soft furnishings regularly to remove dust and allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust mites
  • consider using an air purifier with a HEPA filter to help reduce air borne dust levels. Choose one with a high CADR (clean air delivery rate). The higher the number, the faster the unit will filter the air
  • check if your property is in a radon affected area 

Further information

You can find more information on the British Lung Foundation website.