Outdoor air pollution has been widely studied and regulated for decades, but the quality of indoor air and its potential risks were little unrecognised until the early 2000s. Yet in temperate climates we can spend up to 90% of our time in closed environments (houses, schools, offices, transportation, etc.), where we may be exposed to numerous pollutants. The question of indoor air quality has therefore become a major public health concern across the globe.
Outdoor and indoor air is considered polluted when a chemical, physical or biological agent changes the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are some of the most hazardous pollutants. Apart from pollutants entering from outdoor air, the potential sources of pollution inside buildings are manifold: fuel-burning appliances, construction materials, housekeeping products, paint, tobacco, dust mites and more.
High health and socioeconomic costs
Air pollution is one of the main environmental risks worldwide and the fourth biggest risk factor for mortality globally. It not only provokes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, allergies and asthma, but is also indirectly linked to productivity loss (affecting comfort, workplace well-being, etc.).
Indoor air can far more polluted than outdoor air and was responsible for 3.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016. According to evaluations in France, indoor air quality is poor in 60% of homes, and 34% of tertiary premises—that is, one out of two offices, and three out of five classrooms—that are not equipped with an air ventilation or treatment systems. This has significant consequences for society, which must shoulder a cost of around 19 billion euros linked to premature deaths, health care expenses, productivity loss, etc. Children are among the most vulnerable, taking around 40 breaths per minute on average (as opposed to 16 in adults), meaning the quality of air in closed spaces for young people is a priority.
A study conducted by Elabe for Veolia Group on air pollution was published on World Environment Day, June 5. It surveyed thousands of citizens in France, Belgium, and Shanghai. The idea was to evaluate the general public’s level of awareness on the issue of indoor air pollution. Here is a look at the main lessons from the survey.