People are being urged to open windows when cooking, cleaning and drying clothes inside in order to cut the health risks from indoor pollution.
Pre-schoolers who spend a lot of time at home, pregnant women, the disabled and elderly may be especially vulnerable to the effects of pollution and poor ventilation, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said.
It issued new draft guidance for the public as well as councils, landlords and planners, urging people to use extractor fans or open windows while cooking, drying clothes inside, and using household sprays, solvents and paints.
Homes should also be ventilated when using candles, having a bath or shower, and using open solid-fuel fires.
The advice is for everyone but particularly affects vulnerable groups including people with lung conditions such as asthma.
The guidance also urges pregnant women to reduce their use of aerosols and household cleaning sprays.
Gill Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at Nice, said: “Evidence shows that homes with poor air quality are linked to an increase in risk of health problems.
“Poor ventilation leads to a build-up of pollutants which can exacerbate illnesses such as asthma.
“Councils are in a good position to raise awareness among the general public.
“It’s important that local authority departments from social housing to providers of social care work together to identify, prevent and improve poor indoor air quality.”
Alan Maryon-Davis, honorary professor of public health at King’s College London, said: “We are all very aware of the detrimental health effects of outdoor air pollution.
“But how many of us think about the air quality inside our homes?
“Many people spend most of their time at home indoors, and the pollutants we create through cooking and cleaning, or those arising from mould or building materials, can all too easily cause or exacerbate respiratory conditions and other health problems.”
Professor Jonathan Grigg, paediatric respiratory consultant from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “Since children spend most of their time indoors, the potential for indoor-generated pollutants to cause adverse health effects can no longer be ignored.
“For some indoor-generated air pollutants, such as carbon-containing particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, toxic effects on children are the same as their outdoor-generated counterparts.”
Prof Grigg called for more research on the health effects of indoor-generated volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are produced by products including hairsprays, perfumes, cleaning products, paints, lacquers, and from burning fuel such as wood.
The new guidance also urges architects and builders to consider both indoor and outdoor pollution when planning heating and ventilation for buildings.
Nice said housing conditions that put people at increased risk of exposure to poor indoor air include living near high levels of outdoor air pollution, living in small cramped rooms and having damp.