Indoor environments are the main human environments and, consequently, the environments to which we are mainly exposed. This makes them an issue of public health and one that deserves considerably increased attention. Good indoor environments are needed to avoid aggravation of disease, and to improve the living conditions for asthma sufferers and other vulnerable groups. The increase of asthma and allergies in the younger population in Europe will increase the proportion of vulnerable individuals in the future population. Providing good indoor environments for these groups will benefit us all.
Although many scientific questions still need to be solved, the most urgent needs and requirements are to organize and implement our current knowledge so that health, function, comfort and productivity can be improved for everyone. This also emphasizes the need for multi and interdisciplinary cooperation in research, as well as a broad approach at a societal level to achieve holistic solutions for the challenges. Building structures and indoor environments must be kept clean, dry and free from moisture damage and they must be properly ventilated.
The key requirements are:
- The avoidance of excessive moisture exposure during the construction and operation of buildings
- The adoption of proper planning, construction and maintenance procedures for buildings as these are critical for the prevention of moisture damage
- The immediate remedy of dampness, moisture or water damage
All indoor combustion sources must be properly vented to avoid indoor pollution from combustion gases. Temperatures of heating surfaces and other indoor surfaces, such as lighting and other electric equipment, should be kept lower than 100°C to avoid dust burning. Electric convector heaters should be avoided.
Low-temperature radiated heat, such as from wall radiators with large surfaces, is recommended. Heating by hot air, or by ducted or convective heat increases air enthalpy and impairs air quality. Important conditions for good air quality combined with acceptable operative temperatures in the heating season, are high mean radiant temperatures, low air velocities and low air temperatures, preferably below 22 °C.
It is possible to reduce energy use in buildings and at the same time improve indoor environments. One measure would be to implement and further develop indoor climate requirements based on seasonal or outdoor climates.
Care must be taken with regard to exposure to irritant chemicals, sprays and redecoration. Newborns, children and people with respiratory hypersensitivity are at special risk.
Exposure to phthalate esters, used in several materials and everyday products, is strongly associated to allergies and asthma. More research is needed to assess whether this association is causal or not, and to provide foundations for preventive action.