“In most cases there are two obvious solutions to most of the sources of air pollution indoors,” says Ben Barratt, a senior lecturer in environmental exposure and public health at Imperial College, London. “One is removing the source of pollution in the first place – so using an electric cooker rather than a gas cooker. Be cautious about using cleaning products and don’t overuse them; be cautious about using candles and incense and don’t overuse them. In all cases, if you realise you are creating air pollution indoors then ventilate, open a window.”
But if you live near a busy road or in an urban centre, opening a window may only introduce more pollution indoors. In that case, experts recommend filtration via a Hepa (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which can effectively remove particulates of 0.3 micrometres and larger. Still, a 0.3 micrometre particle is many times larger than nitrogen oxides or nanoparticles – so a Hepa filter isn’t a panacea.
One issue, however, is the reliability of the claims made by air purifier companies. “The thing that concerns me about these air cleaners is that they are largely unregulated,” says Carslaw. “So any company can just put one on the market and say this removes 99% of pollutants.”
To improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, many architects are moving towards more air-tight buildings. But in doing so, we should be careful not to compromise indoor air quality, say experts.
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