Avoid the potential risks associated with indoor air

Have you considered the quality of the air residents, staff and visitors are breathing? The quality of indoor air is an issue that is rising quickly up the agenda, says Clare Noble, head of healthcare for hygiene services provider PHS Group

When managing a care home, there are many competing interests to consider and indeed to juggle. These include legal obligations, health and safety and finances in addition to the wellbeing of residents, staff and visitors. Of course, when you’re caring for people, particularly those who are elderly and vulnerable, there is no room for error.

In addition, you will want to create the best possible environment for residents, putting their health, needs and comfort first and foremost. However, there is one thing that may not be on your radar even though it is all around you - the air that you and your residents are breathing every second of the day.

The quality of indoor air is an issue that is rising quickly up the agenda and there is a very good reason for this. In the UK, we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors breathing in invisible pollutants and contaminants and exposing ourselves to allergens, germs and odours. What’s more, while air pollutants may be generated outdoors, concentration levels can be magnified inside a building. The effect of this is that indoor air can be five times more polluted than the air outside.1 It therefore follows that the quality of indoor air can have a major impact on health and wellbeing. Research has shown that indoor air pollutants are responsible for half of all illnesses – and the statistics speak for themselves.2


example, you may be surprised to learn that one cubic metre of air – about the size of the average refrigerator - contains up to 15,000 flu viruses. Just imagine how many pollutants there are flying around your care home right now. Meanwhile, just 437 grains of dust contain nearly 42,000 living dust mites, each expelling 20 faecal pellets every day into the air we breathe.2


addition to this, the pollutants that are emitted by traffic on nearby roads and from manufacturing plants can also

28 Other factors

Exposure to allergens can also be an issue indoors. For example, you may

make the air dangerous to health. This is currently a particularly hot topic following a study that showed that children in London schools are being exposed to higher levels of damaging air pollution inside the classroom than they are outside, putting them at risk of lifelong health problems.3

While the

study focuses on children in a classroom, the effect is the same on residents in a care home – or any other indoor environment. It demonstrates how pollutants can concentrate indoors and therefore have a major impact on air quality. Of course, this is not unique to London. A recent report by Friends of the Earth,4

found that levels of air pollution exceed safety limits in almost 2,000 locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

think that residents are protected from pollen when they are indoors. However, this is not the case as it has been reported that there may be up to 10,000 pollen grains per cubic metre of indoor air.5

One study found pollen levels to be between two and five times higher inside a building than they are outside and as it is essentially trapped in an enclosed space, pollen concentrations remained higher for longer.6

Yet another contributor to poor indoor air quality is odour, which may emanate from cooking in kitchens, the chemicals used for cleaning, waste that is generated and stored on site and bathrooms and toilets. Each of these factors contribute to the problem of indoor air pollution. Worryingly, the British Lung Foundation7

cites evidence to suggest

that indoor air pollution may be linked to an increased risk of pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. It can also increase the • May 2020

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