AEME has helped UK chart course for indoor air quality and legislation for the home could be next
Peter Reid of AEME and Overclean has pioneered the raising of awareness and standards for indoor air quality in the UK and all over the world with the development of a centre dedicated to training in-ventilation cleaning and hygiene. To build on this headway, government legislation must follow to help increase indoor air quality in another important zone: the home.
According to a study commissioned by the Clean Air Day campaign and conducted by the National Air Quality Testing Services, indoor air pollution is more than three times worse than outdoors.
Four experiments in four different households were carried out as part of the study between April and May 2019 in various locations, monitoring the levels of ultrafine air pollution particles in a 24-hour period both inside the property and outside. Inside, it was found that ultrafine particle pollution was on average 3.5 times higher within the property than outside, with the peak indoor air pollution being 560 times higher than levels recorded outside.
Cooking with gas and burning wood are some of the factors responsible for such high levels, along with outside pollution entering the home. In enclosed spaces, the pollution takes longer to disperse.
Senior partner at Global Action Plan, Chris Large, said: “We are placing a spotlight on the fact that air pollution isn’t just a problem on out streets, but in our homes too. You can’t just close your door and shut out air pollution.
“We were shocked to discover that pollution at its peak can be up to 560 times higher indoors than it is outdoors. The combination of indoor and outdoor air pollution sources is turning our homes into toxic boxes, with pollution trapped inside.”
The government’s Clean Air Strategy published in January 2019 sought to raise awareness of how open fires and wood stoves in the home affect air pollution indoors, with domestic burning the single biggest source of particulate matter emissions according to the document.
The government pledged that new legislation will enter force to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels whilst ensuring only the cleanest stoves are made available for sale by 2022.
The Clean Air Strategy reads: “In future, we will focus on a nationwide approach to smoke control which can be built upon as appropriate by local authorities. Through the new Environment Bill [first introduced in the Queen’s Speech in October 2019] we will make changes to make smoke control legislation easier to enforce. In addition, we will explore powers for Local Authorities to go further in areas of high pollution.
“We will also consider what additional, stronger local powers would be effective to further reduce pollution from domestic burning where there is a clear case that action needs to be taken to protect human health. We will improve and develop new guidance on when existing local and national powers should be used in times of high air pollution.
"In 2022 the new EU Ecodesign regulations will come into force, which will mean that all new stoves will need to meet agreed emissions standards, regardless of where they are used. This will raise the standard of appliances across the whole country.”
The improvement of air quality standards within the home is required to build on the fine work that Reid, AEME and the wider ductwork cleaning industry have already done to improve indoor air quality within the workplace and elsewhere.
Speaking of AEME’s work, Reid said: “The smoking ban in 2007 brought in awareness and the realisation of what IAQ [indoor air quality] was all about. People began to notice the improvements in their indoor working environment.
“We were then beginning to look in depth at the causes of ill health in our workplaces that are caused by the environment around us. We breathe in moulds, bacteria and other pollutants such as dust on a daily basis. To counteract this, new methods of measurements have been developed, such as DIFCO and NADCA tests and also the WFTT [wet film thickness tests] for grease extract systems.”
Reid paid tribute to the work of the UK and its associations for its role in improving IAQ, but stressed that it must continue plotting the course forward in the field.
Reid said: “The UK and its associations have led the world in the development of IAQ. With the continued efforts of our UK companies, we should continue to show the way to the rest of the world how important IAQ is to our continuing healthy environment.
"Thanks to BSRIA, CIBSE, BESA and BSI, we continue to improve and lead. As a country we have a lot to be proud of in the field of IAQ.
“We will continue to strive to improve standards of indoor air quality in the UK, learning from our past experiences and from future partners too.”