The health risks of indoor air pollution were analysed this month in The Lancet, the leading medical journal. In their August article “Covid-19, asthma and the return to school”, The Lancet explored the possibility that lockdowns or stay at home orders might have led to an increase in asthma risks for children, due to increased time at home meaning increased exposure to indoor air pollutants and that a return to school for the winter and autumn period might therefore be safer, despite the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and other more seasonal factors that can cause asthma spikes in the colder months.
According to the journal, stay at home orders have had a substantial impact on children and young people, including decreased vaccination rates, delayed management of health conditions, prolonged exposure to indoor home air pollutants, and impacts on mental health. The Lancet therefore considers it possible that in some children and young people a return to school might improve overall asthma control.
The impact of indoor air pollution on children has been much discussed in recent months. In a report published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the Royal College of Physicians and academics from the University of York, the researchers have highlighted that improving indoor air quality is not the responsibility of the individual but that the government must work together with industry to make sure indoor air is safe for children. They also placed the emphasis on the need for government and local authorities to provide the public with advice and information about the risks of indoor air quality while also suggesting ways that they can prevent it. They also recommended that local authorities should have the power to require improvements when air quality fails to meet the minimum standards in schools and other buildings where children live.
Contributors to indoor air pollution include damp, smoking, damp, the burning of fossil fuels and wood, dust, chemicals from building materials (such as insulation) and furnishings, aerosol sprays, and cleaning products. In terms of insulation, mineral wool, also known as Manmade Vitreous Fibres (MMVF) is one of the materials that has raised health concerns in recent years.
With COVID-19 case numbers on the rise, repeated or further national stay at home orders and local lockdowns are increasingly being discussed. There is a chance that in some parts of Europe, children may once again have to spend extended periods of time at home. The topic of indoor air pollution is therefore very relevant. If children are staying home for safety, it seems crucial that their home environment be as safe as possible, including their indoor air quality.