My husband and I have been looking to buy a flat in London but without much luck.
Part of the reason is that my husband is very keen for us to shop somewhere with low levels of air pollution. He brings an air pollution monitor to every viewing we do, which I think is overkill.
However, we have a one-year-old child and know that air pollution can be much more harmful to children than adults, increasing the risk of diseases such as asthma.
The issue came to a head recently when we looked at a perfect apartment, but my husband vetoed it because his monitor was registering higher than normal contamination levels.
Deal-breaker: This reader found her dream apartment, but her husband vetoed it because his air monitor detected higher than normal pollution levels.
To avoid more useless visits, I think we need to understand what type of home is likely to have lower levels of air pollution.
How far do you have to be from a main road for levels to drop? Is it important to target areas with a lot of trees?
We have focused on the ground floor apartments, but it seems that we are detecting quite a bit of contamination. Should we consider top floor flats?
And when we finally buy a house, is there anything we can do ourselves to reduce air pollution?
Ed Magnus from This is Money responds: If air pollution is the most important factor for you, buying a house in London may seem like an odd choice.
But far from the city center there are many green parks, trees and quiet residential streets.
There is also the recently expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges older diesel and petrol cars £12.50 a day to enter it in a bid to improve air quality.
While pollution is not a concern for most home buyers, increased awareness of the dangers of poor air quality means you certainly won’t be the first to have concerns.
London has recently expanded its ultra-low emissions zone, which could help clean up its air.
Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution, according to the Royal College of Physicians, and there are additional deaths linked to exposure to indoor pollutants.
And in fact, air pollution can have a greater impact on a child’s health, according to lung charity Asthma and Lung UK.
Children are more vulnerable to breathing polluted air than adults because their airways are smaller and still developing.
So while your husband’s decision to bring an air quality monitor to every viewing may be a little eccentric, air quality is something worth keeping in mind.
Risks: poor air quality in cities like London can affect people’s health, especially children
Are ground floor apartments more contaminated?
She mentions that her husband’s air pollution monitor detects high levels of pollution within the apartments he is visiting.
This is unlikely to be because they are ground floor flats. According to a study by air purifier company Smart Air, there is no clear benefit to living on a higher floor in terms of air pollution levels.
I guess you made the connection because the ground floor is closer to road traffic, but that’s not the only factor affecting air quality.
Cooking, cigarette smoke, scented candles and incense, sprays and aerosols could disturb your husband’s monitor.
The central heating system could also contribute, especially if there is an old boiler that hasn’t been serviced for a while or old pipes that have developed a small gas leak, for example. Open fires can also release pollutants into the air.
New furniture and carpets can also contain chemicals called “volatile organic compounds,” such as formaldehyde, which contribute to pollution levels.
Not just cars: in addition to road traffic, there could be many other factors that contribute to high levels of indoor pollution.
Any recent painting or decorating can also cause these chemicals to be released into the home.
For more information we spoke to paula higgins Founder and CEO of HomeOwners Alliance and Tom Hawkinshead of residential development at Hamptons real estate agency.
How far should you live from a main road?
Paula Higgins responds: Deciding where to live is a big decision and it’s not easy, especially because there are trade-offs.
In your case, it seems that air pollution is important, while for many others, factors to consider when choosing an area to live probably include proximity to good schools, parks, shopping, and an easy commute to work.
Paula Higgins, founder and CEO of HomeOwners Alliance, says living within a few meters of a busy road can mean two to three times more pollution compared to an area at least 50 to 100 meters away.
London’s busy roads are the main source of outdoor air pollution. According to London AirGuide, living just a few meters from a busy road can cause two to three times more pollution than an area at least 50 or 100 meters away.
Some buyers may choose to live near a busy street for convenience and the price will generally be lower than similar properties located on quieter streets.
However, living far from busy roads does not eliminate all pollution risks, and ground-level ozone concentrations are often higher in the suburbs or the countryside.
Some of the greatest air pollution can also be found indoors due to causes such as high levels of humidity or poorly ventilated wood stoves.
So, that should be good news for your husband, since you have some control over improving the air quality of your home.
Air pollution can also vary depending on the time of day, season, and weather.
Since it’s usually worse during rush hour, you may want to choose a quieter time to book visits, which may help convince your husband.
Consider purchasing a new construction home
Tom Hawkins says: There are many websites and forums that discuss the most polluted areas of London and I’m sure your husband has already looked at some of them.
Tom Hawkins, head of residential development at the Hamptons, says new-build homes are more likely to have modern ventilation systems and double or triple glazing to reduce traffic fumes.
In general, areas that have lots of green spaces and parks are likely to have better air quality.
Regarding the types of homes, one of the advantages of buying a new construction is that there are very strict construction regulations and standards that must be respected.
When developers submit planning applications, especially with larger developments, they will be thinking about how to build homes that are greener and more sustainable.
They will often also look to include green space and tree planting as part of their planning application.
In terms of indoor pollution, newly built homes are more likely to have modern ventilation systems and double or triple glazing to reduce traffic noise and fumes.
In general, ground floor apartments tend to be a little noisier and when the windows are open, they can let in more car fumes if they are on a busy street.
Filter out the nasties – A Hepa air purifier can also help reduce air pollution within the property. There are hundreds of options available online.
How can they reduce indoor pollution?
Ed Magnus from This is Money responds: Ultimately, air pollution is difficult to escape, no matter where you live. It’s all around us.
You can reduce the impact by preventing mold and damp, keeping windows open, using chemical-free products, reducing plastic use, keeping your home smoke-free and switching to an electric or more sustainable heating system.
You may also want to purchase a Hepa air purifier when you finally find the right home. There are hundreds of options.
The cost will depend on its size, clean air delivery rate (CADR), room coverage and energy usage.
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