Today the average EU citizen spends the vast majority of their time “indoors”. Indoors is defined as non-industrial built environment, i.e. your home, office, restaurants, shops and other public buildings and transportation. Indoor environments expose citizens to a wide variety of factors that may influence their health. These include personal, biological, chemical and physical influences, and factors determined by human presence such as smoking and cooking or social and psychological factors.
These factors have, until fairly recently, been addressed in isolation. But it is now recognised that a coherent, comprehensive and integrated policy is needed to understand the multi-dimensional factors that influence Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and potential effects on public health.
Cefic Position on Indoor Air Quality
Cefic supports good IAQ as an essential element for society’s well-being and health. Its members are committed, with their value chain partners, to the review of health and safety aspects of substances and products for indoor use as understanding and standards evolve.
However, chemicals are only one factor for IAQ. The assessment of IAQ should cover the full range of potential emission sources. Building a framework for better IAQ requires a “building and equipment systems” approach covering design, materials and construction products, household and consumer products, combustion and the influence of the external environment. Engagement with occupants is also required to understand behaviour, offer advice and ensure that other potent factors such as tobacco smoke are recognised and addressed.
Cefic has adopted a dynamic and constructive approach to the IAQ debate and engaged with European Commission and World Health Organisation (WHO) activities. Harmonisation of health-driven standards and existing legislation are essential for an efficient IAQ policy. And a harmonised approach would also benefit industry, giving a higher profile to existing activities and innovative solutions to ensure a healthy environment for the general public.
Working proactively to provide input to relevant policy bodies, Cefic also participates in research projects and works with others on scenarios, policy and practical options that will ensure that IAQ policy is based on an integrated approach addressing all contributing factors. This includes reasonable thresholds for chemicals intended for indoor use.
The European Commission (led by DG SANCO – Health and Consumer Affairs) has established a multistakeholder Expert Group on IAQ to develop policy. The group is working with results from several EU research projects and health threshold guidelines being developed by WHO. Cefic is part of the Expert Group and is an observer at the relevant WHO working party.
Cefic’s own Indoor Air group has collaborated closely with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on chemical thresholds, harmonisation of labelling schemes and the construction of a European website on IAQ and Health Effects. Cefic will continue to work closely with DG SANCO and other EU institutions as a European IAQ policy framework is formulated.