e-learning | Indoor air quality

This is a new guideline on improving the air quality in people's homes. It was published in Jan 20.

The crux of this is that there is an increasing awareness that indoor air pollution (think cooking fumes, damp, sprays, fires etc) can be damaging to health.

What do we have to do as GPs?

  • Spot patients that may be more at risk (see below).
  • Spot housing conditions that may be more risky (see below).
  • Advise patients on how to access a 'housing assessment' from the local authority. I suspect that these pathways aren't up and running yet, but maybe soon?
  • Give advice on reducing risk.

Which patients are more at risk from indoor air pollution?

The following patients may be at higher risk from the effects of indoor air pollution:

  • those with pre-existing health conditions, eg asthma, COPD, allergies or cardiovascular disease.
  • pregnant women and their unborn babies.
  • pre-school children.
  • older people.
  • people in poor quality housing.
  • people exposed to tobacco smoke in their homes.
  • people who live in poverty.

What housing conditions put people at higher risk of indoor air pollution?

The following housing conditions may put people at higher risk of indoor air pollution:

  • location (eg where people are less likely to open windows due to security, noise or outdoor air pollution).
  • physical surroundings (eg small rooms or inadequate ventilation).
  • poor standard of housing (eg mould, damp, poorly fitted appliances or physical disrepair).
  • overcrowding.

What advice should we be giving people?

The following broad areas of advice should be given:

  • People can apply for a housing assessment if needed. Tenants, for example, may find it difficult putting changes into place themselves and may need local authority help if landlords are not doing what they should.
  • How to avoid activities that increase air pollution.
  • How to increase ventilation in the home.
  • Know who can provide help with repairs and necessary improvements (eg local authority if not privately owned).

The following visual summary from NICE lists how to avoid activities that increase air pollution and how to increase ventilation. I won't list them out again as they are very clearly stated in this summary.

There is also specific advice for patients with breathing or heart problems, people with house dust mite allergy and pregnant ladies and babies under 12 months.

What resources can we give to patients?

Sadly NICE doesn't seem to have done a patient advice sheet yet, which I think would have been really useful.

You could just give out page 1 of the visual summary as it is very clear and avoids jargon.

There is also a very good summary from Which, which is free to access. However they do advise air purifiers, which NICE don't advise on.

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