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Published 20th Dec 2011

Indoor Air Quality

Advice is on offer to help Middlesbrough residents stay healthy over the winter months.

Middlesbrough Council and NHS Middlesbrough have joined forces to raise awareness of the risks associated with poor air quality in homes.

Research shows that a number of materials, chemicals and activities can cause poor indoor air quality, increasing the risk of developing respiratory and other health problems, particularly during the colder months.

Dr Edward Kunonga, Interim Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Middlesbrough and Middlesbrough Council, said: “Our tendency to keep windows and doors closed during the colder months allows pollutants to build up.

“The main pollutants in the home are cigarette smoke and the gases given off from gas heating appliances and gas cookers which are not properly ventilated. These pollutants can be eliminated or reduced to safe levels by taking some simple precautions.

“Living in a house where someone smokes puts people, especially children, more at risk of developing ear infections, coughs, pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis.”

If adequate ventilation is not provided for gas cookers and boilers, the fumes given off contain high levels of carbon monoxide, which is known to cause headaches, confusion and can be fatal. Each year around 4,000 people go to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning and there are around 50 deaths in England and Wales.

Symptoms associated with breathing in nitrogen dioxide pollution include throat and eye irritation and respiratory problems.

Ian Turner, an Environmental Housing Officer in Middlesbrough Council’s Community Protection Service, said: “Gas appliances in rented accommodation must have an annual gas safety check by a registered Gas Safe engineer.

“In the last three months the Council has used legal powers to require landlords to carry out gas safety checks in their rented properties. Five out of 72 gas safety checks found defective gas appliances which had not been serviced properly.

“In two of these properties gas appliances were so dangerous the gas supply was immediately cut off to protect the occupants.”

Councillor Brenda Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Public Health and Sport, said: “Raising awareness about the health risks associated with poor indoor air quality, especially during the winter months, is important to help protect public health, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.”

There are also some simple tips for householders to follow to help stay safe and healthy:

  • Make your home a smoke-free environment. Stop smoking if you can or follow the ‘Take 7 Steps Out’ advice and only smoke outside and at least seven steps away from your door. This will help to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, especially to children in the home.
  • Have your gas central heating system inspected every year by a registered Gas Safe engineer.
  • Your gas cooker should have local extraction ventilation that takes fumes away from the cooker to the outside air. If this is not possible open a kitchen window when cooking to allow fresh air into the kitchen.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and test them regularly.
  • Make your home energy efficient and reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat your home. Contact the Energy Saving Trust at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0800 512 012

Find out more

For more information on improving indoor air quality see:  www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/indoorairquality

 






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