Air quality and health

Air quality and health

Client: University of Stirling

Indoor air quality is vital to our experience of a space. High and low temperatures, the extent of moisture, contaminants and pollutants all directly affect our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It is known that indoor air can contain even greater concentrations of pollutants than external air.

This book aims to assist all those involved with the care of older people and those with dementia to deliver good indoor air quality. It is relevant to people in their own homes, in care homes, day care centres and hospitals. It is written to help commissioners, providers, design teams, estates and facilities managers and maintenance staff as well as building occupants. It looks at health-related issues and different ventilation strategies.

The degree to which we will be adversely affected by poor indoor air quality will vary according to the intensity and the duration of our exposure, as well as our health status. Inevitably the least healthy members of the population are at greatest risk. They are relatively immobile, will spend a lot of their time indoors and are therefore particularly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality. It is vital, therefore, that they are provided with as good indoor air quality as is possible and this requires eliminating pollutants at source and good ventilation control.

Older people and those with dementia may have very different needs from those who care for them. Because they may be unable to communicate their concerns or discomfort, it is critical that we understand what might affect them, given that their carers may change shifts throughout the day and therefore not only be unaware of less than perfect environmental conditions, but also have much less exposure to the air quality. The visitor experience too is an important consideration, given the value of visitors to the well-being of older people.

The numbers of people with dementia are rising steadily and will increase very rapidly when baby boomers hit the ages of highest risk. Unless the environment is optimal for their health, costs of care will be unnecessarily high and there will be unnecessary suffering. Potentially this increasing segment of our population who have dementia (currently about 70% of people in care homes and about 30% of people in acute hospitals) and who need the best air quality, will drive forward a widespread determination to get it right; the costs of not doing it being considerable.

We hope that it will help in understanding the role of good indoor air quality and ventilation in the delivery of good care and will assist those in a position to do so, to procure, develop and implement appropriate strategies for delivering good indoor air quality.