New Zealanders need to be more aware of indoor air
quality and its impact on health, particularly over winter,
caution the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, the Indoor
Air Quality Research Centre of New Zealand (IAQRC) and

"Many people don’t realise that on average we
spend 85-90% of our time indoors. So, the quality of indoor
air has a significant impact on health, especially our
respiratory health," says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia
Harding. "With World Air Quality Week next week, it is
timely to raise public awareness of what we are breathing in
our workplaces, schools and homes, and to call for greater
action to improve the quality of indoor air."

Dr Julie
Bennett, a Public Health Researcher at the University of
Otago and a member of the IAQRC, explains that without
proper ventilation, pollutants can accumulate to high levels
inside. "Indoor air pollutant levels can be two to five
times higher than outdoor levels and in some cases exceed
outdoor levels of the same pollutants by 100

Indoor pollutants come from outdoor sources
like traffic fumes and smoke which make their way inside, as
well as indoor sources, explains Dr Guy Coulson, Air Quality
Scientist with NIWA. "Mould and damp is by far the biggest
threat to indoor air quality, but there are also pollutants
that come from some cleaning products, materials and

Another concern is the transmission of
airborne diseases in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
"During COVID-19 we all became aware of how easily airborne
diseases can spread in enclosed spaces lacking in
ventilation. During winter, this effect is amplified as we
are inside more, there are more airborne respiratory viruses
and flu strains circulating, and people are less likely to
ventilate by opening doors and windows. Using a HEPA
(high-efficiency particulate) air filter is also a good
choice, especially in the absence of ventilation." says Ms

"Improved air quality will reduce the rate of
transmission of these airborne diseases, and it also means
that less pollutants can make their way into our lungs where
they can trigger respiratory symptoms for some people, and
worsen pre-existing respiratory conditions, like asthma and
COPD, for others," Ms Harding explains.

Dr Bennett
says that to make a real difference to indoor air quality,
action is need from Government. "Currently, we have
regulations for outdoor air quality managed by the Resource
Management Act, but no similar standards exist for indoor
air. We are behind many other countries in this regard," she
says. "Setting a standard for indoor air quality is a clear
first step. However, this would need to be followed by
monitoring and measurement, as we currently do with outdoor
air quality, to create meaningful improvement."

In the
meantime, individuals can take action to improve air quality
in their own homes. "Opening windows is remarkably
effective, even just a 10-minute blast to flush out
pollutants will make a big difference. However, if you live
in an area with a lot of outdoor air pollution or if you are
highly sensitive to pollutants, you might want to consider
using a ventilation system or an air cleaner with a HEPA
filter," Dr Coulson advises.

He also recommends
looking at your source of heating. "Replacing wood burning
heating to electric heating, will make a big difference and
we would strongly advise against using unflued gas heaters.
It’s also important to remember that heat pumps do not
ventilate rooms, they simply heat or cool existing air
within the room, so ventilation is still

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