Why the indoor environment is important

For some time there has been considerable public, regulatory and scientific interest and concern about human exposure to environmental pollutants, much of which has focused on understanding the effects of, and controlling, outdoor ambient air pollution. However, in developed regions such as Europe, people spend the vast majority (90% or more) of their time indoors. While there has been considerable research into, and regulation of, workplace (occupational) environments, there are other types of indoor environment that may have a health impact on the general public that, until recently, have not been given adequate consideration. In particular, young people, as well as the elderly or sick, are potentially most vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution, and these groups spend most of their time either in their own homes or indoors in places open to the general public, such as nurseries, schools, hospitals and day-care centres. Hence the environment inside homes and these other buildings is likely to be extremely important to the health and well-being of individuals, and may have a significant impact on overall public health.

There is a wide range of factors in indoor environments that may affect the quality of the air (and other aspects such as thermal comfort and noise levels) and thereby impact on an individual's health and well-being. These factors include: building design and maintenance; pollutant sources; biological contaminants; and methods of controlling, and the actual levels of, ventilation, temperature, humidity and lighting.

IEH has developed and actively maintains IERIE in order to foster a wider appreciation of the many factors that influence the indoor environment and to promote research and discussion on this important topic.

Scope of IERIE

IERIE is a searchable inventory of current European research activities relating to the potential health effects of, and methods of controlling, the quality of indoor air. It focuses on many aspects of the environment in domestic and public buildings, including:

  • emissions from materials used in the indoor environment and the environmental design aspects of buildings;
  • exposure to indoor pollutants or environmental and physical phenomena and methods of measurement;
  • the health effects of indoor pollutants (chemical and biological), environmental and physical phenomena and psychological factors, and their potential interactions and mechanisms of action; and
  • the influence of the indoor environment on health, especially in susceptible sub-populations.

The database was developed with sponsorship from Cefic LRI and is now maintained by IEH with the support of Cefic and the UK Department of Health.

IERIE is designed to provide an effective and powerful tool for identifying current research activities and key workers in these fields. It will be valuable to those organising co-ordination and co-operation between the various European stakeholders in order to prevent duplication of effort, and can be used to identify changing patterns in research activities, gaps in current programmes and emerging areas of concern. As such it is used by funding organisations to identify future research needs, and to ensure that research funds are directed in an efficient and targeted manner.

IEH also maintains a similar web-based database called APRED (Air Pollution Research Database), which focuses specifically on individual UK-based researchers and their areas of expertise in indoor and outdoor air pollution.

 
 

 
Institute of Environment and Health, Cranfield University, UK.
 
 
Cranfield University