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Soaps, air fresheners, perfumes and paint could get warning labels over air pollution

Fragrant household cleaning products that contribute to air pollution could get warning labels under official plans.

The Government’s clean air strategy published yesterday warned that chemicals found in household products such as soaps, air fresheners, paint, glue, toilet cleaners, carpets, perfumes and the wood in kitchen cabinets were major contributors to air pollution.

The chemicals – volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – react with sunlight and pollutants in the air to create polluting gases. One solution may be to introduce warning labels on cleaning products which advise people to ventilate their homes.

Other measures in Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s clean air strategy include action against wood-burning stoves, ammonia from farms and diesel-powered machinery.

Fragrant household cleaning products that contribute to air pollution could get warning labels under the Government’s clean air strategy. The plan cites two smells which pose a pollution threat: lemon and pine, or limonene and alpha pinene (file photo)

But critics say there is not enough in the plan to tackle pollution from diesel vehicles.

The plan cites two smells which pose a pollution threat: lemon and pine, or limonene and alpha pinene.

These are mostly harmless in the home, but outdoors they can combine with other gases and sunlight to form polluting ozone – which can cause asthma – and airborne particulates, which penetrate the lungs and can cause respiratory diseases.

The strategy recommends: ‘There are a number of practical ways to reduce indoor air pollution from VOCs, which can be as simple as switching to lower-VOC alternatives, such as unperfumed cleaning products, and ensuring that homes are well ventilated to avoid an accumulation of emissions from multiple sources.’

…but diesel cars are let off the hook 

The Clean Air Strategy does too little to tackle pollution from cars, lorries and vans, it was claimed last night.

Neil Parish, Tory chairman of the Commons environment committee, told fellow MPs it was crucial to cut the levels of particulate matter from road traffic.

‘The Government should reduce the need for private vehicles in congested urban areas by improving public transport, and also making sure that public transport is much cleaner,’ he said.

Claire Haigh, of the campaign group Greener Journeys, said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that ministers have again made no attempt to tackle the root cause of the UK’s air quality crisis – the number of diesel cars and vans on our roads.

‘Diesel cars and vans are the biggest contributors to nitrogen oxide pollution from road transport, together accounting for 71 per cent of emissions, compared with just 6 per cent for buses and coaches. Yet, the Government has repeatedly refused to take any meaningful action.’ 

A more dangerous pollutant found in the home is formaldehyde, a known cause of cancer released from furniture, laminated flooring, kitchen cabinets and wood panels. The Government said it wanted to reduce levels of VOCs by 32 per cent by 2020, and by 39 per cent by 2030.

Elsewhere in the strategy, which is up for consultation, the Government suggests only cleaner fuels and stoves will be sold for domestic heating, curbing polluting smoke and soot.

And councils could be given new powers to bring in ‘clean air zones’ to tackle poor air from sources such as wood burners, for example limiting what people can burn or bringing in ‘no-burn days’, and from diesel-powered machinery.

The clean air strategy is intended to cut the cost of air pollution to society by £1 billion a year by 2020, and by £2.5 billion a year by 2030.

The aim is to halve, by 2025, the number of people living in areas where tiny particles known as particulate matter or PM2.5 are above safe levels set by the World Health Organisation. These particles can be breathed into the lungs and get into the bloodstream, causing health problems including heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

Mr Gove admitted yesterday the Government had to ‘do better’ on pollution.

The latest strategy comes after government announcements on measures to tackle pollution from transport, including phasing out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

Mr Gove said: ‘It’s critically important we make progress there, but it’s also important we deal with other sources of air pollution, whether that’s from slurry spread on agricultural land or whether it’s from wood-burning or other ways people generate domestic fuel and power.’ 


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