What is the relationship between ventilation and health?
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September 15, 2015

What is the relationship between ventilation and health?

Summary of published papers on effects of ventilation and ventilation rates on health and acute health (SBS) symptoms of office workers and occupants dissatisfaction with air quality indoors. The study was published as a part of the scientific paper “What does the scientific literature tell us about the ventilation–health relationship in public and residential buildings?” by Pawel Wargocki and co-authors at the Journal of Building and Environment.

Mendell (1993) [13]

Acute health (SBS) symptoms of office workers were associated with air-conditioning, carpets, more workers in a space, VDT use, and ventilation rates at or below 10 L/s per person.

Godish and Spengler (1996) [14]

Limited evidence suggests that increasing the ventilation rate up to 10 L/s per person may be effective in reducing prevalence of acute health (SBS) symptoms and occupant dissatisfaction with air quality. Because of complex relationships between ventilation rates, contaminant levels, and building-related health complaints, the use of ventilation as a mitigation measure for air quality problems should be tempered with an understanding of factors that may limit its effectiveness.

Seppänen et al. (1999) [15]

Ventilation rates below 10 L/s per person in all building types were associated with statistically significant worsening in one or more health or perceived air quality outcomes. Some studies determined that increasing ventilation rates above 10 L/s per person up to approximately 20 L/s per person, were associated with a significant decrease in the prevalence of acute-health symptoms or with a significant improvement of the perceived air quality. The risk of acute health (SBS) symptoms continued to decrease significantly with decreasing carbon dioxide concentrations below 800 ppm.

Wargocki et al. (2002) [16]

Ventilation rates below 25 L/s per person increase the risk of acute health (SBS) symptoms, increase short-term sick leave, and decrease productivity.

Mendell and Heath (2005) [101]

No sufficiently persuasive evidence to establish specific causal relationships between indoor pollutants or thermal conditions in schools and the performance of students. Suggestive (although not fully consistent) evidence links low ventilation rates in buildings to decreased performance in children and adults.

Seppänen et al. (2006) [102]

A 1–3% improvement in average performance was associated with an increase in ventilation rate by 10 L/s per person. The performance increase was statistically significant when ventilation rates increased up to 15 L/s per person (95% confidence interval, CI) and up to 17 L/s per person (90% CI). The performance increase per unit increase in ventilation was larger with ventilation rates below 20 L/s per person and almost negligible with ventilation rates over 45 L/s per person.

Li et al. (2007) [23]

There is strong and sufficient evidence substantiating the association between ventilation, air movements in buildings and the transmission/spread of infectious diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, chickenpox, influenza, smallpox and SARS. There is insufficient data to clearly define the ventilation rates that can reduce the risk of the spread of infectious diseases via the airborne route for hospitals, schools, offices, homes and isolation rooms. Overcrowding is a risk factor that may be related to the ventilation of buildings but it also increases transmission via direct contact.

Fisk (2009) [103]

As the ventilation rate is reduced from 10 to 5 L/s per person, the relative prevalence of acute health (SBS) symptoms increases by ca. 23% (12%–32%). As the ventilation rate is increased from 10 to 25 L/s per person, the relative prevalence of symptoms decreases by 29% (15%–42%).

Sundell et al. (2011) [25]

Higher ventilation rates in offices, up to about 25 L/s per person, were associated with reduced prevalence of acute health (SBS) symptoms. Ventilation rates in homes above 0.5 air changes per hour are associated with a reduced risk of allergic manifestations among children in Nordic climates.