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The quality of air has a huge impact on our standard of living and the environment.

Indoor pollution

  • In the UK, the majority of people spend over 90% of their time indoors, in an enclosed built environment.

  • Based on reports of indoor air quality surveys of homes in the UK, the concentrations of indoor pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxides are several times higher indoors than outdoors.

  • According to BRE, the total exposure of people to the indoor air pollutants is a concern and should be an important environmental issue for building occupants.

  • Building materials, furnishing, and finishing products such as varnishes and paints can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are known to cause respiratory illness. Research shows that VOCs, are higher in new buildings, and new furniture can double emissions in the environment.

  • Formaldehyde, one of the most common VOCs, is a particular health concern. The use of wood-based panels, such as Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF), for building and furniture, and urea-formaldehyde cavity wall insulation, are major contributory factors to formaldehyde emissions in homes. 

  • An estimated 5.5 million UK buildings contain asbestos. 

  • Houseplants, including spider plants, areca palm, English ivy, gerbera daisy, peace lilies and rubber plants, can substantially reduce internal air pollution. 

  • Typically VOCs can be more than 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.

  • Although not an indoor pollutant the proximity of developments to major roads and Nitrous oxide (NOx)emissions can increase indoor pollutant levels. NOx emissions are also greater for Combined Heat and Power units and large scale gas boilers.

  • S106 or CIL contributions can be required for mitigation or low emissions strategies to reduce air pollution levels.

Effect on health

  • Due to the release of volatile chemicals in the air from building materials and services people can suffer a variety of adverse health effects, including headache, nauseas, respiratory problems, irritation of the eyes and sick building syndrome (SBS). SBS can also be caused by other environmental factors. 

  • In 2010, the committee on the medical effects of air pollution published a report on the ‘Mortality effects of long-term exposure to particulate air pollution in the UK’. The report states that the burden of pollution from particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is equivalent to 29,000 deaths per year or is equal to a loss of life expectancy of 6 months from birth. 

  • In the UK, asthma affects one in every eleven children, and one in every twelve adults.

  • Asthma attacks hospitalise someone every 8 minutes; 185 people are admitted to hospital because of asthma attacks every day in the UK (a child is admitted to hospital every 20 minutes because of an asthma attack).

  • Asthma UK reports that around 42% of sufferers say that traffic fumes stop them walking in congested areas.

  • NOx can have adverse effects on health, particularly among people with respiratory illness. High levels of exposure have been linked with increased hospital admissions due to respiratory problems, while long-term exposure may affect lung function and increase the response to allergens in sensitive people.

Other effects

  • Air quality can affect biodiversity, therefore impacting on our international obligations under the Habitats Directive. 

  • Odour and dust can be a planning concern, e.g. because of its effect on local amenity. 

  • The Building Engineering Services Association 2016 survey reports that 70% of employees complain air quality has a negative effect on wellbeing and productivity. According to the Environment Agency, in 2015 there were 97 pollution incidents that had a serious impact on air quality. The waste industry caused half of these incidents.

Air quality management

  • The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (2007) sets out standards and objectives for 8 main air pollutants to protect health. If objectives are unlikely to be achieved, the local authority must declare an air quality management area (AQMA).

  • There are 33 AQMA (as of July 2017) in Hertfordshire, located across 8 of the 10 districts.  Many relate to the fumes emitted by vehicles on the M25 and M1.  Others are in urban centres and along secondary routes.  

  • The Air Quality Management Regulations 2010 aims to improve air quality by setting legally binding limits for concentrations for air pollutants outdoors. These major air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can cause impacts on public health and can combine in the atmosphere to form ozone, a harmful air pollutant that is also a potent greenhouse gas. 

  • The local air quality management (LAQM) regime requires every district and unitary authority to review and assess air quality in their area. These reviews identify whether the national objectives are being met at particular locations. 

  • If the national objectives are not met then the local authority must declare an air quality management area and prepare an air quality action plan. The action plan identifies measures to meet the objectives and can have implications on planning applications.

  • The government has released its strategy ‘Improving air quality: reducing nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities’ that focuses on reducing NOx emissions in certain urban areas through restrictions in vehicle movements and types.

 

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Cookies we use

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NameTypeHow we use itHow long we use the information for

ASP.Net_Sessions

 

Required functionality

An automatic cookie set by our software. 

Just for the time you are on our website.

ServerID

 

Required functionality

An automatic cookie set by our software. 

Just for the time you are on our website.

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Required functionality

To track the effectiveness of our website using Google Analytics. 

2 years

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Performance and feature

To save the pages that you visit by clicking the heart at the top of the page. 

1 month

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Performance and feature

This stores your postcode (or partial postcode) when we ask you for your location.

Just for the time you are on our website or 30 days (you choose this).

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Performance and feature

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Performance and feature

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Performance and feature

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Required functionality

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Third party cookies

There are links and content from other sites and services on our website. These sites and services set their own cookies.

Below are a list of cookies that the other sites and services use:

Service namePurposeMore information

Google analytics (_utma/b/c/z)

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Cookies of the same names are also used for the same purpose by other websites such as Building FuturesCountryside Management Service and Hertfordshire LIS.

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Google Translation - googtrans

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It expires at the end of your browser session.

Bing

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Google

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HotJar

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