Experts call for mandatory indoor air quality standards to boost health and economy

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There should be mandatory indoor air quality standards, say an international group of experts led by Professor Lidia Morawska.

Professor Morawska, Vice-Chancellor Fellow at the University of Surrey and Distinguished Professor at Queensland University of Technology, led the appeal to the World Health Organization to recognize the airborne transmission of the virus which causes COVID-19 early in the pandemic – and help minimize it.

Now, in a paper published by the prestigious journal Science, Professor Morawska's international team recommends setting standards for ventilation rate and three key indoor pollutants: carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and PM2.5, which are particles so small they can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream. 

Professor Morawska said: 

"Most countries do not have any legislated indoor air quality performance standards for public spaces that address concentration levels of indoor air pollutants. 

"To have practical value, indoor air quality standards must be implementable by designing new buildings that are built, operated and maintained to standard or retrofitted to meet the standards.

"While there is a cost in the short term, the social and economic benefits to public health, wellbeing and productivity will likely far outweigh the investment in cost in achieving clean indoor air." 

People living in urban and industrialized societies spend more than 90% of their time indoors, yet there are few controls over the quality of the air they breathe there. 

Professor Prashant Kumar, co-author of the paper and Director of the University of Surrey's Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), said: 

"There's no doubt that managing indoor air quality is complicated and modeling is difficult because every space is different. But this can't be an excuse. We propose solutions using readily available, inexpensive monitors, focusing on three indicator pollutants." 

CO2 is one of the easiest parameters to measure and can serve as a proxy for occupant-emitted contaminants and pathogens, as well as being useful for effectively assessing ventilation quality. "By limiting levels of CO2 indoors, we can reduce the spread of diseases spread by respiratory pathogens, like COVID-19, colds and flu." 

Professor Catherine Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings, University of Leeds

 The paper 'Indoor air quality standards in public buildings' is published in Science.

This research demonstrates the University of Surrey's contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These include SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

Journal reference:

Morawska, L., et al. (2024) Mandating indoor air quality for public buildings. Science.


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