UK residents spend around 90% of their time indoors, yet regulations to address air pollution focus almost solely on outdoor exposure. Indoor air pollution takes many forms, from particulate matter such as dust and soot from wood burners to gases like carbon monoxide from gas stoves. Breathing in these particles and gases are bad for our health and poor indoor air quality has been linked to lung diseases including asthma, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
SEI is taking part in a £2.9 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) project to better understand how the composition and concentration of indoor air pollutants vary and how this exposure affects people in their homes.
The project will focus on homes in the city of Bradford, which, like many other parts of the UK, is affected by poor air quality. Bradford has a multi-ethnic population and high levels of deprivation, with some of the highest childhood illness rates in the UK.
Watch a short animation introducing the project
A team of scientists from four universities, including SEI York based at the University of York, will work with the Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Born In Bradford study – a long-term research programme following children born in the city – to better understand the potential impacts of poor indoor air quality on ill health.
The team will quantify and identify:
SEI York’s contribution will focus on the co-production and evaluation of behaviour change interventions and the development of policy recommendations. To do this, SEI will communicate with homeowners, tenants and communities about the risks associated with indoor air pollution exposure and the actions they can take to reduce their exposure.
SEI will also work with local authorities, planners and developers to identify suitable policy recommendations for addressing this issue in homes across the city and provide a blueprint for applying these measures in homes and businesses across the UK.
“This study is the first of its kind to look in such detail at the pollution inside people’s homes in the UK, particularly focusing on poorer households. At SEI, we will be using our strengths in policy engagement and citizen science to work with decision-makers and local residents to identify how householders and local authorities can reduce exposure to air pollution in the home.
Once we have examined the different behaviours that influence a person’s exposure to indoor air pollution, for example, using fans whilst cooking or opening windows to increase ventilation, we will then provide advice to householders and local authorities on the changes they can make to improve air quality in the home.”
– Dr Sarah West, who is leading SEI’s contribution to the study
In July, Nic Carslaw, the INGENIOUS principal investigator, convened with the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK Parliament to discuss the sufficiency of current measures to promote indoor and outdoor air quality. INGENIOUS was one initiative referenced at the meeting. Nic urged policymakers and the public to learn more about household air quality and the health implications of food, cleaning, and hygiene product emissions. Rt. Hon. Phillip Dunne, the committee’s chairman, was eager to study the project’s results with interest in further engagement.
INGENIOUS took center stage at the Merchant Adventurers’ Lecture in York where Nic Carslaw, INGENIOUS PI, made a presentation titled – Indoor air pollution: the dirty little secret lurking in our homes. She describes how the project is at the forefront of research efforts on domestic air pollution and its effects, as well as to provide solutions for improved air quality in our homes.
INGENIOUS PI, Nic Carslaw has received funding from the Wolfson Foundation and the University of York to construct her ideal home: an indoor air quality facility on the Heslington East campus. Nic says “The new Wolfson INTERIORS Facility will allow us to explore indoor air quality in more detail, and under more realistic conditions, than ever before. Together with the data we collect from peoples’ homes as part of the INGENIOUS project, we will be in a strong position to identify what drives air pollutant concentrations in homes and, more importantly, how we then provide solutions.”
After a design and planning phase beginning in the spring of 2023, the INTERIORS (INTERdisciplinary Facility for IndOoR Air Quality ReSearch) facility will be constructed, instrumented, and characterised, and should be fully operational by the spring of 2026.
This project is funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund Clean Air Programme.
The £2.9 million project brings together specialists in environmental, social, medical, engineering, economic, and health issues.
The project is led by Professor Nicola Carslaw at the University of York, Department of Environment and Geography.
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