Indoor air quality

On average we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors either at home, school/college or in the workplace. It is therefore very important that the air we are breathing does not have a negative impact on our health.

As air makes its way into our homes and workplaces it can bring pollutants indoors with it. Indoor environments also contain sources of air pollution such as cooking and heating appliances, cleaning and household products and biological contaminants like mould and dust mites. When buildings have poor ventilation or low air exchange rates, indoor air pollutants from these sources can accumulate to high levels and could potentially pose a risk to our health.

The following pages provide information on: 

Indoor air pollutants and health effects [PDF] (file size 63Kb)

The Council has also produced a leaflet which highlights some of the factors that can lead to poor air quality in the home, as well as advice on ways to improve it. If you would like to printed copy, please email air.quality@rbkc.gov.uk.

Indoor Air Quality leaflet [PDF file] (file size 818Kb)

Monitoring pollution levels in your home

While the Council has a responsibility to monitor levels of some key pollutants in the outdoor air we do not have equipment to monitor pollution inside homes. You can, however, purchase a carbon monoxide monitor in most home stores in the UK. This is used to test the level of carbon monoxide in the home if you are concerned that your boiler may not be working properly and is giving off fumes.

If you are worried that you have a serious problem with indoor air quality which has persisted over a period of time you may want to consider contacting a commercial company which can carry out an assessment and suggest mitigation measures. Companies that offer indoor air pollution monitoring can be found in your local directory or through online search engines.

Air quality in the workplace

Air quality in places of work as well as schools and prisons is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive. Employers have a duty under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2007 to do all they can to provide a safe system of work and a safe working environment.

Many new or refurbished buildings such as offices are virtually airtight; windows cannot be opened and the supply of fresh air is typically controlled by air conditioning and heating systems. Many workers in such buildings experience a variety of symptoms which have been collectively named “sick building syndrome” or SBS. Symptoms include lethargy, stuffy or runny nose, dry throat, headache, eye irritation, chest tightness and dry skin, and hypersensitivity to odours.

If you think you are experiencing SBS at your work place you should speak with your manager and contact the Trade Union for your organisation. The Royal Borough Heath and Safety team can provide information and advice. Telephone the Environmental Health Line on 020 7361 3002.

Open fires and indoor air quality

If you have just moved into a house with an open fireplace which you want to use, or are thinking of opening up an old hearth, it’s important to have the flue checked to make sure it’s free from obstructions and does not allow fumes to leak out, or escape into other rooms, before leaving the top of the chimney. The chimney must be swept regularly to avoid the risk of chimney fires or blockages. This is equally important for enclosed appliances.

Open fires are also a source of dust and grime in the home which can reduce the quality of indoor air. It is important to have your chimney swept regularly and to store the fuel correctly, and in dry conditions. It is also important to ensure that the ventilation to rooms with open fires is adequate.

For advice on how to minimise harmful emissions from using solid fuel is provided in the Environmental Protection UK’s Using Wood and Coal for Home Heating leaflet.

Using Wood and Coal for Home Heating leaflet [PDF] (file size 290Kb).