Asthma and Lung UK recently tested air quality levels at GP surgeries and health centres across the UK.
Their report, Toxic Air at the Door of the NHS, revealed that more than 2,000 UK health centres are located in areas where the levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exceed World Health Organisation limits.
The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum concentration of fine particulate matter of 10μg/m3 for the annual average. Any concentrations above this limit pose a serious health risk.
This includes 2,220 GP practices and 248 hospitals. In England, that amounts to 1 in 3 GP surgeries and 1 in 4 hospitals.
Is your GP surgery or health centre in an area with high pollution levels? Learn more about the best and worst areas in the UK for air quality.
What is Fine Particulate Matter?
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a hazardous air pollutant. It’s composed of a huge variety of chemical compounds and materials, some of which are toxic. Common sources of fine particulate matter include traffic and road transport, wood burning, industrial processes, and manufacturing. Some fine particulate matter, such as sea spray and pollen, is naturally occurring.
While natural fine particulate matter is non-toxic, it can still lead to certain health problems, particularly in people with allergies or breathing difficulties.
PM2.5, the fine particulate matter highlighted in this report, is matter composed of particles less than 2.4 micrometres in diameter.
Read our complete guide to hazardous and toxic air pollutants to learn more about fine particulate matter.
The Effects of Air Pollution in GP Surgeries
Air pollution in a GP’s surgery is a particularly critical issue, as a large proportion of people who visit the surgery will already be in a vulnerable position. It poses a risk to staff too – long-term exposure can increase the risks of developing serious lung conditions.
PM2.5 is so small that, after inhalation, it can enter the bloodstream. After this it may make its way to the heart, lungs, brain, and other organs.
So prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to asthma, heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer. It can also aggravate existing conditions.
One study estimated that up to 20,200 respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions each year can be linked to air pollution.
How Can We Improve Air Quality in GP Surgeries?
The Asthma and Lung UK report makes a few recommendations for improving the air quality in GP surgeries:
- New legislation to adopt the World Health Organisation’s recommended PM2.5 limits into UK law. Read more about the Clean Air Hospital Framework, a key initiative that aims to legislate air quality in health settings.
- Implement more Clean Air Zones in cities and towns across the UK. Read more about how speed limits can help reduce air pollution.
- Increase investment in air quality monitoring services for places where vulnerable groups gather. Learn more about how monitoring services can improve air quality in health centres.
Each of these initiatives could help improve air quality in GP surgeries in the long-term. But for a sustainable short-term solution, surgeries and health centres should also invest in a high quality air filtration system.
Cairn Technology carries out monitoring to investigate the levels of PM10, PM5, PM4, PM2.5, within multiple departments in hospitals to obtain baseline data to examine staff and public exposure to VOCs. This provides valuable information about the exposure of both staff members and public to VOCs and will assist in building a business case for the requirement of further air purification.
Our Blueair air purifiers are fitted with advanced HEPASilent technology, which can catch 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns. This includes PM2.5 fine air particles, as well as many other hazardous and toxic air pollutants. They can also capture and kill 99% of viruses and bacteria.