How Air Pollution Harms Children in Healthcare Settings

A 2018 report revealed that thousands of UK health centres are located in areas with unsafe levels of air pollution.

The World Health Organisation recommends certain limits on the concentration of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere. This report found that over 2,000 UK health centres are located in areas where the concentration of fine particulate matter exceeds the WHO’s limits.

This means that millions of patients and practitioners in the UK may be exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution on a daily basis.

Impact of Air Pollution on Children

When inhaled, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is small enough to pass through the lungs and enter the bloodstream, leading to a number of health problems.

Many vulnerable groups use UK health centres, and air pollution poses a great risk to everyone. However, trust managers might be particularly concerned with the effect that air pollution has on the children that visit their centres.

Air pollution can have a serious impact on a child’s development, as breathing polluted air can lead to fatigue and a lack of concentration. In the short term, air pollution can make existing conditions worse, such as asthmas and allergies. Long-term exposure can lead to much more serious conditions.

What Causes Air Pollution?

Here are some of the most common sources of air pollution in public areas:

  • Traffic – Vehicle emissions can contain many potentially harmful pollutants, including particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂).
  • Cleaning – Some cleaning products contain pollutants known as non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs). Using these products in a poorly-ventilated area can lead to the creation of atmospheric formaldehyde. As well as causing irritation in the eyes and upper airways, formaldehyde is a carcinogen.
  • Mould – Mould can be an issue in any building of any age. If you don’t address a mould problem, it will spread, which can lead to mould spores in the atmosphere. Inhaling these spores can lead to a number of health problems.
  • Weather – Strong winds can carry pollutants over long distances. As well as the pollutants from traffic, winds can also bring pollutants from other sources, including farms and factories. On top of this, air pollution levels are generally higher on still or warmer days.

You can read our full guide to the numerous causes of air pollution.

How to Test Air Quality

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) routinely publishes air pollution alerts and forecasts. You can use this service to assess the air quality in your area on any given day.

Though this service is useful, it poses certain limitations. DEFRA’s reports will give you an idea of the pollution levels across wide areas of the country. They don’t account for local air quality concerns, so you cannot rely on them for a reliable picture of the exposure risks in your area.

Our air quality monitoring service can give you a much more accurate overview of the air pollution risks in your environment. In addition, ongoing exposure monitoring can help you determine just how at-risk individuals in your building might be. These specialist processes will give you a detailed report highlighting any problem areas, with advice on steps you can take to improve the situation.

Find out more about our air quality monitoring services and how we can help you.