It’s Clean Air Day. Really! Let’s talk air pollution.

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June 20th is National Clean Air Day! It is the chance to engage and motivate thousands of people and businesses to think about we can all do to tackle air pollution.

OK, no, it’s not a day named in honour of Clean Air Group. But, yes, we still want to shout long and hard about it. You see this is a day that improves public understanding of air pollution both indoors and outdoors, and how it has an effect on our health.

It is only the third annual Clean Air Day but already it is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. It is also a topic that we’ve been harping on about for over thirty years as we cool, heat and ventilate commercial premises. So we would like to say a big thanks to the organisers, Global Action Plan, for their valuable work and fine goals – chief of which is to ensure everyone can enjoy  clean and healthy air.

Now listen hard! This is why…

There are many things that can be done to tackle air pollution, and Clean Air Day explains some important steps that we can take to improve the quality of air for everyone. 

And while there us much talk may most consist of pollution to outdoor air, why don’t we use the day to recognise the problem with indoor air and see how we can rectify the issue?

After all a person may spend on average 90% of their time in a building and studies show that it is common for levels of many pollutants to be higher indoors than outdoors.

Workplaces suffer from air quality issues that are created by factors as varied as building characteristics to the nature of the work being carried out. Health and safety legislation is an important part of HVAC, and always uppermost in our own cooling and heating engineers minds as they consider the design of ventilation, air conditioning, evaporative cooling or heating systems. 

For example industrial ventilation comes with a complex set of legislative requirements for the safe filtration and extraction of chemicals and dusts in the workplace. But whatever the premises – office, school, shop, warehouse or factory – the correct ventilation systems and the optimal maintenance of equipment is vital to manage and achieve low levels of indoor air pollution.

Why is air quality important?

Air Pollution is an invisible killer, and is estimated to contribute to 40,000 early deaths in the UK every year – a staggering figure. From industrial processes in factories to building and construction or cars and vans the sources of pollution are everywhere. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 9/10 people worldwide are breathing in air containing very high levels of pollutants.Exposure to these particles increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and even lung cancer greatly.

It is not just outdoor air pollution that is guilty of this though, as indoor pollution is just as big a problem. It is something that the WHO identify as the world’s leading environmental health risk. There are many contributing factors which we completely ignore that affect the quality of air indoors. Emissions from materials used in buildings silently pollute the air, for example lead in paint and pipes, glues used in construction and mould from a build-up of moisture.

So how is the UK doing?

It’s a mixed bag. It might be summed up, kindly, by the phrase ‘could achieve more’. Which is not good enough. Especially when compared with the achievements of other developed countries. Last year the UK had consistent breaches of air pollutants resulting in a ‘final warning’ from the European Commission, meaning something had to be done. 

It is thought that traffic and vehicles are the main pollutants for outdoor air, therefore one of the key measures involves proposals for Clean Air Zones in major cities such as Birmingham and Leeds . Restrictions will be placed on older vehicles and electric vehicles will get preferential treatment. There is also talk of charging zones being introduced for vehicles with high emissions. 

Another measure is the banning of materials –  such as asbestos –  which have extremely harmful effects on health,

But the elephant in the room – and one that concerns us – appears to be the notable lack of measures in place to help improve the quality of air indoors.

And what can you do?

ventilation for your buildingControlling indoor air quality may seem like a hard task but combating it really is quite simple. The key is getting air changes in a building. Suitable ventilation systems will get rid of the stale contaminated air and replace it with fresh, clean air. 

This will greatly increase the comfort levels in a building, and help improve morale. Happy staff are likely to work harder and get getter results from their work and even stay longer in their jobs. 

Evaporative cooling is also very good at replenishing air in buildings/offices/factories and provides the added benefit of being able to cool the area too – up to 360m2 from one unit. These units also filter the air for pollen and tiny pollutants which means even fresher air circulating in the building.

Ventilation and evaporative cooling systems can provide great health benefits. It helps of course with where you are. Schools in central London for example may find the challenge of maintaining the provision of high quality of air more difficult than those outside in the countryside. Whilst it’s not yet fully clear what causes sick building syndrome, effective air changes and filtering can help reduce its impact.

Talk at the moment mostly consists of pollution to outdoor air and what is being done to tackle that. Indoor air pollution does not get the recognition that its outdoor counterpart does, yet it poses just as much of a risk to our health. 

Let’s use Clean Air Day to recognise the importance of good quality indoor air. Clean air is vital for our health at home, at play and at work, indoors or outdoors. So here’s to Clean Air, it’s a good and apt toast to end this blog on!