‘Significant’ levels of formaldehyde intensifying indoor air pollution

Housing in London in 2010. © Jorge Royan

UK households are experiencing dangerous levels of indoor air pollution due to ‘significant’ levels of formaldehyde, a human carcinogen that is found in adhesives in wood products such as MDF, carpets, furniture, paints and varnishes.

These were the findings of a report that analysed pollution levels inside 47 homes in Birmingham, London and the Home Counties, which showed a fifth of UK homes showed significant levels of formaldehyde with 13% of properties exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) guideline limits.

Health effects of formaldehyde include sore throats, rhinitis, nasal irritation, breathlessness and has also been linked to leukaemia and brain cancer.

James, one of the people who took part in Airtopia’s study, lives in a one-bedroom, new-build flat in Surrey. He believes the migraines he suffers from are intensified due to the high levels of formaldehyde that were found in his house.

‘Our formaldehyde rating has made us think about what furniture to buy in the future – wood, not MDF, and quality soft furnishings,’ he said.

The report is being launched in partnership with the Clean Air Day campaign and was undertaken by indoor air experts Airtopia.

Airtopia’s report also identified that a large number of households were unaware of the simple things they can do to reduce indoor air pollution – with 47% of households saying that they never ventilate their homes at night.

Tim Robinson, Head of Science at Airtopia, said: ‘There are literally hundreds of chemicals polluting our indoor air and this research from our Home Health Checks shows how important it is that householders understand this. It’s time we gave people more information to protect their health, and that is just what Airtopia is working to do.’

The research has been launched ahead of an interdisciplinary Working Party review, funded in part by Airtopia, into the effects of indoor air pollution on children and young people’s health. This is being carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Last month, a report said that indoor air pollution is over three times worse than outdoor air pollution, with campaigners calling UK households ‘toxic boxes’ due to the number of air pollution particles trapped inside.

The study was also commissioned by the Clean Air Day campaign who asked the National Air Quality Testing Services (NAQTS) to conduct four experiments with four families in different UK locations in April and May 2019.

Each study monitored the level of ultrafine air pollution particles over a 24-hour period inside and outside the four families’ properties, which found that ultrafine particle pollution levels were on average 3.5 times higher inside than outside, peaking at 560 times outdoor air pollution.

Photo credit – Pixabay


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top