BEAMA awareness campaign highlights risks of poor indoor air quality

Published:  14 November, 2014

Following a number of reports revealing that Brits are at risk of suffering from serious health issues linked to poor ventilation in UK homes, BEAMA, the electro technical industry body for the UK, is taking action to raise building industry awareness of the importance of effective household ventilation.

BEAMA has been given exclusive access to an independent indoor air quality study from Prism & Waverton Analytics, which examined the levels of Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) concentrations in over 120 UK homes.

Only 9% of homes were revealed as being in the ‘normal’ bracket for concentration levels, while the remaining 91% had above the recommended concentrations.

VOCs are organic chemicals, which are found in human-made items, such as aerosols, paints, wall boards and ceiling tiles and are also naturally occurring in mould.

As a YouGov consumer survey found, people with mould in their homes are 19% more likely to suffer from a respiratory or dermatological condition. As such, BEAMA is urging for a greater uptake of properly designed and installed continuous mechanical ventilation systems in UK homes.

Kelly Butler, marketing director of BEAMA, said: “Currently, only 2% of the UK have mechanical ventilation systems installed throughout their homes which is concerning given this data. If only 2% of homes have continuous vent systems, and 91% are outside of normal conditions, that means even our leaky homes are causing problems let alone newer air tight dwellings. If people are exposed to high concentrations of VOCs over long periods of time, even non-chemically sensitive individuals can be susceptible to the associated serious health risks. It is BEAMA’s reputational imperative, when buying and selling homes, to protect the people who live in them.”

A Nottingham University study, which looked into the impact of mechanical air filtration systems on household air quality, found that, after six hours of using an effective, properly installed ventilation unit, air can be free from mould-producing contaminants.

Peter Howarth, professor of allergy and respiratory medicine at Southampton University said: ‘I have had many patients come to me with serious respiratory conditions due to pollutants within the home. My advice to them is to always make sure they have good household ventilation, whether that comes from installing a mechanical system throughout the home or replacing an old extractor fan. Once ventilation has been sorted, their symptoms are reduced dramatically.

“I think that a ‘Healthy Home Guide’, which provides the building industry with standard guidelines for ventilation, would help to significantly minimise the amount of people in the UK with asthma and dermatological conditions. Further down the line, it would be good to also see a ‘Healthy Home Mark’ on new homes to confirm that they have adequate ventilation systems installed.”

BEAMA is aiming to ensure that house builders consider ventilation and indoor air quality at design stage rather than as a late 'add-on' to specifications.

“Mechanical ventilation solutions should be a standard specification in all cases, especially with modern building standards reaching such high levels of building envelope thermal performance,” concluded Mr Butler.

To get up to date on the guidance around ventilation see the BEAMA Green Deal Ventilation Guide and ensure you are familiar with Part F of the Building Regulations.

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