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Indoor air pollution from household products 'putting lives at risk', experts say

Gas stoves are among possible sources of indoor pollutants Credit: PA

Exposure to indoor air pollution from household products is causing health problems and putting lives at risk, experts have warned.

Indoor air pollution may have caused or contributed to 99,000 deaths in just one year across Europe, according to a new report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

While smoking or faulty gas appliances are well understood as indoor pollutants, the report highlights the risk from other items used frequently around the home - including air fresheners, candles and cleaning products.

"There is now good awareness of the risks from badly maintained gas appliances, radioactive radon gas and second-hand tobacco smoke," the authors wrote.

"But indoors we can also be exposed to NO2 from gas cooking and solvents that slowly seep from plastics, paints and furnishings.

"The lemon and pine scents that we use to make our homes smell fresh can react chemically to generate air pollutants, and ozone-based air fresheners can also cause indoor air pollution."

Other items that are exposing people to potentially harmful pollutants include joss sticks, cookers, boilers, open fires and portable gas or paraffin heaters.

The report warns of air pollutants both inside and outside the home Credit: PA

The report's authors concluded exposure to pollutants both inside and outside the home may be contributing to thousands more deaths than previously estimated.

Air pollution has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia.

Taking action to tackle air pollution in the UK will reduce the pain and suffering for many people with long-term chronic health conditions, not to mention lessening the long-term demands on our NHS.

This is not just a job for government, local authorities or business - as individuals we can all do our part to reduce pollutant exposure.

– Dr Andrew Goddard from the RCP

In 2008 it was estimated that long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution caused 29,000 deaths across the UK each year, but the latest review says the figure is now around 40,000.

Professor Jonathan Grigg, from the RCPCH, called on the government to monitor exposure to air pollution more effectively.

"We also ask the public to consider ways of reducing their own contribution to air pollution by taking simple measures such as using public transport, walking and cycling, and not choosing to drive high-polluting vehicles," he said.