What is air pollution like indoors?

Indoor air is important because we spend a substantial proportion of our time in buildings, where pollution comes from a range of sources such as smoking, cooking, heating appliances, and fumes from paint and even furniture.

Substances such as formaldehyde, present in carpets and plywood, and volatile organic compounds, present in paint, solvents and some scented products (for example air freshereners), can be released into the air. Wood fires generate smoke particles, and we contribute particles of dead skin to the indoor atmosphere. Dampness and mould can also be hazardous.

These types of pollution generally only affect those with pre-existing conditions. However, fatalities can be caused through carbon monoxide poisoning if vents and chimneys are faulty, or where chemicals are used without ensuring adequate ventilation.

Another serious indoor pollutant is radon which is a natural radioactive gas that can increase the risk of lung cancer, although this is less common in London than some other areas in the UK. Internationally one of the most important sources of indoor air pollution is through cooking with open fires. The level of air pollution inside can also be influenced by that outside, depending on the amount of ventilation. However Ozone levels in particular are much lower indoors, especially if windows are closed.

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