Indoor Air Quality and Health

Indoor Air Quality and Health
National Toxics Network Inc.
 Established in 1993, we are Australia’s peak non-government
group working on chemical pollution issues.
 We provide technical expertise, network capacity and
information to the community, environment sector,
government and industry on a range of chemical issues.
 We represent Australian NGOs in the negotiating processes
for the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions, Waigani
Convention on Hazardous Waste and Strategic Approach to
International Chemical Management (SAICM).
 We currently represent the Australian Environment Network
on the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and
Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) Community Engagement
Forum and Nanotechnology Committee.
What is IAQ?
 Indoor air quality [IAQ] is defined as the nature of air
that affects the health and well-being of a building’s
 Critical aspects of the indoor air environment include air
temperature, humidity, ventilation rate, indoor air
pollutants IAPs.
 Indoor air quality is a critical component to consider in
any discussion of the eco-sustainability of buildings.
 Indoor air quality is a significant public health issue and
a matter of liability for employers and building managers
who fail to provide a safe working environment.
IAQ and energy efficiency
 There is a potential conflict between requirements
for energy efficiency and good indoor air quality.
 During the “energy crisis” in the 1970s there was a
trend towards design and construction of “tight
buildings” for more efficient heating and cooling.
This reduced rates of natural or passive ventilation.
As a result, contaminants can concentrate inside.
 This is also true of buildings with mechanised
ventilation, where the need buildings energy efficient
can also lead to lower air exchange rates and a
consequent concentration of indoor pollutants.
Why is IAQ important to our health?
 The amount of time people spend indoors has
increased dramatically.
 People in industrialised countries now spend 7090% of their time indoors: work, home, and in
enclosed vehicles.
 The rapid proliferation of new building materials and
consumer products, such as plastics, is exposing
people and the environment to many new sources of
Pollutants and
Building operations eg
ventilation systems
Construction materials
eg particle board
Products used indoors
eg cleaning fluids
Activities indoors eg
Outdoor pollutants eg
car exhaust fumes,
 Air is a mixture of gases and small
particles that can contain
substances that impact your
 These substances may be
pollutants (formaldehyde) or
allergens (dust mites).
 Air pollutants can come from
manufactured sources or occur
How do we get
Pollutants enter the
human body through:
breathing in polluted
air (inhalation)
swallowing harmful
substances (ingestion)
absorbing pollutants
through the skin
Some groups of people are more
vulnerable than others. These include:
 the very young
 the very old
 those with pre-existing respiratory or
cardiovascular disease
 those who are sensitised to a substance
 Everybody’s immune system reacts
differently to different substances. Not
everyone is allergic and there are
differences between individuals as to
the substances they are allergic to.
Typical indoor air pollutants
 Nitrogen dioxide (gas combustion)
 Carbon monoxide (gas combustion, idling cars)
 Formaldehyde (pressed wood products, laminates)
 Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs] (new
building components, cleaning agents, pesticides,
office equipment)
Passive smoke (tobacco smoke)
Dust mite allergens (carpets and furniture)
Mould spores (damp areas, window sills)
Lead in indoor dust (old buildings and paint)
 The health impacts of individual
Poor indoor air quality
can cause a range of
health effects from mild
and generally nonspecific symptoms such
as headaches, tiredness
or lethargy to more
severe effects such as
aggravation of asthma
and allergic responses.
chemical components in building
materials are not well understood.
 Many chemicals present in indoor
air environments have not been
thoroughly tested and little is
known about their long term
health effects.
 Even less understood is the health
impacts from constant exposure
to mixtures of chemicals that
result inside.
Prevention is better than cure
 Ideally IAQ is considered at the design phase of any
building or renovation in terms of site choice, aspect
and ventilation and building material choices.
 Existing buildings can be modified to improve IAQ
by improving ventilation rates, managing damp,
venting gas appliances, changing internal practices
such as the location of office equipment.
 Reduce IAPs at their source by switching to green
cleaning, non-chemical pest management, no or lowemission furnishings, paints and materials, adopting
a fragrance-free policy.
Further information:
Healthy Homes - A guide to indoor air quality in the
home for buyers, builders and renovators. enHealth
Dept. of Health and Aging
National Toxics Network