A shocking new study reveals that people who live in apartments with gas appliances could be exposed to higher levels of toxic pollutants than they would be when walking through a congested city center. The research from the University of Sheffield, revealed that our desire to keep our urban homes as warm and as energy efficient as possible can lead to pollutant levels three times higher than the outdoor environment.

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For the study, the team from the Faculty of Engineering measured air quality inside and outside three residential buildings (one rural house, one apartment in the city center and one apartment located near a busy road). The house used an electric cooker, while the two apartments used gas cookers. The team found that  nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the urban apartment were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the property and well above those recommended in UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance.

Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research, said of the findings: “We spend 90% of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in. Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health.”

The team was specifically looking for pollutants that might have a detrimental health impact, particularly on the elderly and people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems. These included carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and solid particles small enough to penetrate into the lungs (2.5 microns in size or smaller, known as PM2.5). In both the apartment kitchens, the average particle concentrations were higher than the levels set by the Government as its objective for outdoor air quality in both London and England.

“Concerns about air quality tend to focus on what we breathe in outdoors, but as we spend most of our time indoors, we need to understand more about air pollution in our homes,” wrote Professor Sharifi. “There is very little data on emission rates from different appliances or acceptable standards on indoor pollutants. Although ours was just a small study, it highlights the need for more research to determine the impact of changing housing and lifestyles on our indoor air quality.”

+ University of Sheffield

via The Telegraph

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