Our expert says:
This is a fairly common concern of flat-dwellers, and I can't believe you were sent an attorney's letter in response to your complaint. It certainly isn't 'absurd': there is little question that air pollution (with vehicle exhaust as one of the worst offenders) contributes to a range of health problems, and children are particularly vulnerable to these. There are many potential factors that may be causing the sinusitis and bronchitis, but car fumes may well be worsening symptoms.
Although I don't think you should give up trying to get your concerns heard, unfortunately any solution to the problem is probably going to have to lie with you. Short of the drastic decision to move to somewhere less polluted, I suggest the following:
Usually, it's best to have as much through-flow of air into a home as possible; even in city environments, through-flow of air is still better than allowing indoor air to 'stagnate' - indoor environments are often more polluted than outdoor ones. However, in some cases - and yours sounds like one - the outdoor air quality is worse. You need to monitor when the fumes are worst, and make sure windows and doors are closed at these times. Also, do an inventory of any wall or floor cracks, and get them sealed. Use an indoor fan to keep air circulating. But please do open doors and windows whenever possible, if there are 'cleaner' periods.
If you essentially have to keep your home closed up most of the time to prevent fumes, then you may want to consider installing an air conditioning or cleaning system. But not just any system: it needs to be professionally installed and maintained, and it must be one that can trap the smaller particles and gases that are harmful in car fumes. And, yes, this is an expensive undertaking (though it should add value to your property).
Remember that it's important (especially if you don't have a lot of fresh air coming in from outside) to keep your indoor air environment as healthy as possible. That means completely banning any smoking (needless to say), reducing the number of chemical products in the home (e.g. artificial air fresheners, incense, candles, woodfires, chemical sprays and cleaning products that produce fumes), and regular cleaning - especially mopping and vacumming to keep down dust.
One (relatively) simple thing you might want to ask residents in your to do is avoid letting their car engines idle while they are in the basement parking are: engine idling is very polluting.
You might also think about installing a carbon monoxide detector in your flat. Even without car fumes, it's a good idea to have one.
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