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 that we buy somewhere with low levels of air pollution. He brings an air pollution monitor to every viewing we go on, which I do think is over-the-top.
However, we have a one-year-old and know that air pollution can be much more damaging for children than adults, increasing the risk of illnesses such as asthma.
The problem came to a head recently when we viewed a perfect flat – but my husband vetoed it because his monitor picked up higher than normal levels of pollution.
Deal breaker: This reader found the flat of her dreams, but her husband vetoed it as his air monitor picked up higher than normal levels of pollution
To avoid more pointless viewings, I think we need to understand what sort of home is likely to have lower levels of air pollution.
How far do you need to be away from a main road for the levels to drop, and is it important to target areas with plenty of trees?
We’ve been focusing on ground floor flats, but we seem to be picking up quite a lot of pollution. Should we consider top floor flats instead?
And when we do eventually buy a home, is there anything we can do to reduce air pollution ourselves?
Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: If air pollution is the most important factor for you, then buying a home in London may seem like an odd choice.
But away from the centre of town there are plenty of green parks, trees, and quiet residential roads.
There is also the recently expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which charges older diesel and petrol cars £12.50 a day when entering it in a bid to improve air quality.
While pollution isn’t a concern for most home buyers, increased awareness of the dangers of poor air quality means you will certainly not be the first to have concerns.
London has recently expanded its Ultra Low Emission 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, with additional deaths linked to exposure to indoor pollutants.
And air pollution can indeed have more of an impact on a child’s health, according to the lung charity, Asthma and Lung UK.
Children are more vulnerable to breathing in 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 bit eccentric, air quality is something that is worth being aware of.
Risks: Poor air quality in cities such as London can impact people’s health, especially children
Are ground floor flats more polluted?
You mention that your husband’s air pollution monitor is picking up high levels of pollution inside the flats you are 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 of living on a higher floor in terms of air pollution levels.
I assume that you made the connection because the ground floor is closer to the road traffic – but that is by no means the only factor affecting air quality.
Cookers, cigarette smoke, scented candles and incense, sprays and aerosols could all be upsetting your husband’s monitor.
The central heating system could also be contributing, especially if there is an old boiler that hasn’t been serviced for a while or old pipes that have sprung a tiny gas leak, for example. Open fires can also release pollutants into the air.
New furniture and carpets may also contain chemicals called ‘volatile organic compounds’ such as formaldehyde, which contribute to pollution levels.
Not just cars: There could be a whole host of factors contributing to high pollution levels inside aside from road traffic
Any recent painting or decorating may also lead to the release of these chemicals within the home.
For further insight we spoke to Paula Higgins founder and chief executive of HomeOwners Alliance and Tom Hawkins, head of residential development at estate agent, Hamptons.
How far should you live from a main road?
Paula Higgins replies: Deciding where to live is a big decision and isn’t easy, especially as there are trade-offs.
In your case, it sounds like air pollution is important, whereas for many others factors to consider when choosing an area to live in are likely to include proximity to good schools, parks, shops and an easy commute to work.
Paula Higgins, founder and chief executive of HomeOwners Alliance says living within a few metres of a busy road can mean two to three times the pollution compared to an area of at least 50-100 metres away
Busy roads in London are the main source of outdoor air pollution. According to London AirGuide, living within a few metres of a busy road can mean two to three times the pollution compared to an area of at least 50-100 metres away.
Some buyers may choose to live near a busy road because of convenience, and the price will generally be lower than similar properties situated on more peaceful streets.
Living away from busy roads does not remove all pollution risk, though, and ground level ozone concentrations are often highest in suburbs or in the countryside.
Some of the highest air pollution can also be found indoors due to causes such as high levels of dampness or wood burners with little ventilation.
So that should be good news to your husband, in that you have some control over improving the air quality of your home.
Air pollution can also vary depending on the time of day, the season and the weather.
As it is usually worse during rush hour, you may want to choose a quieter time to book viewings which may help sway your husband.
Consider buying a new build home
Tom Hawkins says: There are many websites and forums that discuss the worst-polluted areas of London, and I am sure your husband has already perused some of them.
Tom Hawkins , head of residential development at Hamptons says new build homes are more likely to have modern ventilation systems, and double or triple glazing to reduce the fumes of traffic
In general, areas that have lots of green spaces and parks are likely to have better air quality.
With regard to the types of homes, one of the advantages of buying a new-build is that there are very stringent building regulations and standards that need to be adhered to.
When developers are putting in planning applications, especially with larger developments, they will be thinking about how to build homes that are more ecological and sustainable to run.
They will also often look to include green spaces and planting trees as part of their planning application.
In terms of pollution inside, new build homes are more likely to have modern ventilation systems, and double or triple glazing to reduce the noise and fumes of traffic.
In general, ground floor apartments do tend to be a bit noisier and, when windows are open, potentially let in more car fumes if on a busy road.
Filter out the nasties: A Hepa air purifier may also help to reduce air pollution within the property. There are hundreds of options available online
How can they reduce pollution inside?
Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: Ultimately, air pollution is hard to escape, no matter where you live. It is all around us.
You can lessen the impact by preventing mould and damp, keeping windows open, using chemical-free products, cutting back on plastic, keeping your home smoke-free and switching to an electrical or more sustainable heating system.
You might also want to buy a Hepa air purifier when you do eventually 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.