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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T014474/1
Title: IMPacts of Cooking and Cleaning on indoor Air quality: towards healthy BuiLdings for the futurE: IMPeCCABLE
Principal Investigator: Carslaw, Professor N
Other Investigators:
Dillon, Dr T J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Environment
Organisation: University of York
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 17 August 2020 Ends: 16 May 2023 Value (£): 550,861
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/T014490/2 EP/T014792/1 EP/T014490/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Oct 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 8 and 9 October 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
It is estimated that in developed countries such as the UK, we spend about 90% of our time indoors, with a significant portion spent in our homes. As a result, much of our exposure to air pollutants happens in the home even if the pollutants are made outdoors (e.g. by cars) and find their way indoors through windows and doors. As climate change leads to an increased focus on energy efficiency measures, one consequence is that we are building our homes to be more airtight to prevent energy loss. So compared to previous generations, we are spending more time indoors within buildings that are becoming more airtight. Clearly, if we then undertake activities indoors that form air pollutants, we could be exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants that could be harmful to health.

Such activities indoors include cooking and cleaning. We know that cooking generates high concentrations of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. The emission rates of pollutants vary widely and depend on the cooking method, and the oil and food types. For instance, concentrations of small particles have been shown to exceed acute health standards over several hours when frying meat. Such concentrations are a concern as we know that adverse health effects of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems can result from exposure to these particles. Cleaning is another regular activity indoors, with studies showing that bleach cleaning can impact indoor air quality. We also know that domestic cleaning staff have high rates of asthma, again suggesting that cleaning activities may cause adverse health effects in some individuals.

As houses continue to become increasingly airtight through energy efficiency measures, we may increase our exposure to indoor air pollution if sources such as cooking and cleaning dominate our exposure. We need to understand the sources and reactions of pollutants indoors, particularly as many studies show that secondary pollutants formed through chemical reactions indoors are more harmful to health than primary emissions: for instance, we know that the carcinogen formaldehyde is a reaction product of limonene oxidation, the latter species being a key component of many cleaning formulations.

Therefore, to understand the impact of indoor emissions and to develop appropriate mitigation measures this project will:

(i) investigate the emissions from different pollution sources indoors, both in terms of the strength of these emissions and their composition

(ii) investigate the chemistry that occurs indoors following these emissions - what are the key chemical reactions indoors and what are the harmful products formed?

(iii) identify the consequent implications for building occupants in terms of exposure to air pollution - can we identify behaviour that might lead to higher exposures indoors and identify how to reduce that exposure?

(iv) use this knowledge to make recommendations for future building design and use based on rigorous science.

Although measurements of cooking and cleaning emissions exist, they tend to focus on a few emission rates, rather than studying a wide range of emitted species and the chemistry that follows from the emissions. Measurements have been mostly made in the US, where building design and use differ considerably to the UK. This project will use a holistic approach with combined experiments and modelling studies over a range of spatial scales (starting with small chambers and increasing up to test-house size), to understand the resulting indoor air quality when we cook and clean indoors. Our study will then deliver rigorous recommendations for building design, management and use based on typical indoor activities. The involvement of a range of stakeholders - including representatives from architecture, building management (including catering and cleaning managers), the chemical industry and building regulations - will ensure the results are relevant.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.york.ac.uk