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Health and Environment are two major issues of our time. As European citizens spend around 90% of their life in confined spaces, indoor environment and more particularly, indoor air represent exposures with a great potential impact on their health. That is why the European Union has been paying a growing attention to the issue and is committed to identify reliable and feasible policies. Despite the fact that indoor air can to some extent be seen as a consumer or private issue, its effects on health were recently recognized to request the definition of public policies namely at the European level. [1]

EnVIE was an EU funded coordination project in 2004-2008.

Objectives and Approach of EnVIE

The aim of the EnVIE project is to increase the understanding of the Europe-wide public health impacts of indoor air quality by identifying the most widespread and significant indoor causes for these health impacts and evaluating the existing and optional building and housing related policies for controlling them. It addresses in particular how indoor air quality might contribute to the observed rise in asthma and respiratory allergy, together with other acute and chronic health impacts. The intention is not to conduct new experimental or field research, but rather to build on the broad scientific experience and the wealth of accumulated literature from the domestic and international indoor air research projects as well as the EU, WHO, ISIAQ and CIB committees and expert groups during the past 20 years. [1]

Many previous indoor air quality and policy assessments have taken specific contaminants or indoor sources as the starting point. The logic behind this is the flow of molecules from sources via the environment to exposure, whole body dose, target organ dose, and the consequent health outcome. EnVIE follows an opposite logic, starting from consideration of the most pronounced indoor air related health outcomes (which may have also other sources and causes), then identifying the most widespread indoor air exposures that are likely to cause these health outcomes and the most common sources which dominate the indoor air exposures. The intention was to focus from the start on those indoor air quality issues that have the highest Europe-wide health relevance. Having defined a shortlist of such "reverse" indoor health-exposure-source chains, the project evaluates the policy alternatives for minimising both unwanted health consequences, in terms of achievable public health benefits, and invasiveness, while taking into account political, legal, technological, economical and social feasibility. A further outcome is the identification of a set of highly advisable and feasible indoor air quality policy options for Europe. Europe-wide applicability brings the benefits of enhanced competition in a broader marketplace.

Health Policy Gains from IAQ Policies

Although many IAQ policies depend on and/or overlap with others, the public health benefits that could be achieved by each policy are here each assessed individually. This assessment does not consider the costs or political feasibility of the policies, and it is assumed that each policy is fully implemented throughout the building stock. The assessment follows the EnVIE concept, beginning with the shortlist of health impacts. Likely public health gains, represented by DALY reductions, which could be achieved by the selection of different general and specific indoor air quality policies, are calculated. [1]

Recommendations on Policies

The recommendations on policies can be grouped and summarized as: [1]

Policies concerning energy efficiency, building materials, products and maintenance.

  • Integration of IAQ into the EPBD procedure for buildings
  • Development and application of European harmonised protocols for IAQ testing, reporting and labelling for building materials, equipment and products (common IAQ monitoring procedures) (REACH, GPSD)
  • Providing for each building systematic documentation and operating, inspection and maintenance manuals for all installations and assigning a sufficiently qualified person with control of all documentation and responsibility for all building tasks

Policies concerning the impacts of outdoor environment

  • Mandating radon-safe construction for all new buildings
  • Applying tight building envelopes, balanced ventilation and air cleaning for all new/renovated buildings when ambient air quality is below WHO

Policies concerning specific building constructions and equipment

  • Banning of all unflued combustion heaters, equip gas stoves with exhaust hoods and fans, mandating CO detectors regular maintenance/inspection for all combustion devices (integrate with EPBD procedures);
  • Development of health based ventilation guidelines to control exposure to pollutants from indoor and outdoor sources, including indoor moisture, and ensure comfortable indoor temperature;
  • Mandating regular inspection and maintenance of all ventilation and air conditioning systems. (integrate to EPBD);
  • Developing moisture control guidelines for building design and maintenance, to prevent persistent dampness and hidden and visible mould growth, and keeping domestic hot water [tap water] temperatures above 55ºC;
  • Providing kitchens, bath- and laundry rooms with controlled extract ventilation, bath- and laundry rooms also with waterproofed surfaces;
  • Avoiding spaces, structures and materials that would not dry by convective airflows.

Framework for a EU Green Paper on IAQ

The list of proposed policies clearly shows that to tackle IAQ there is a need for an integrative approach. Therefore, the justification for a Green Paper on IAQ was identified in order to, among other things: coordinate the proposed policies with other already existing and in preparation legislative tools and policies related to IAQ; promote an objective dialogue among all relevant stakeholders; and contribute to the holistic view needed for the management of the built environment. [1]

EnVIE method

EnVIE introduces what can be called the "EnVIE Method" on how to approach the relationship causes vs effects and its consequence on drawing strategies and policies. For the last decades the focus was on following the sequence cause - effect trying to identify substances in the air and qualify and quantify their concentration according to their toxicity. Meanwhile it was realized that, basically because of the lack of toxicological information and the enormous number of pollutants, the relationship cause vs effects was showing to be quite difficult. The EnVIE method starts from the health effects to the exposure and sources. [1]

  1. Identify the most important health effects caused by indoor air contaminants in Europe
  2. Identify the exposures causing such effects
  3. Identify the sources generating such exposure
  4. Provide a strategy to EU to manage the population risk (policy making)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 EnVIE: Publishable final activity report. EnVIE (Co-ordination Action on Indoor Air Quality and Health Effects), Deliverable 0.1.4, 2009. (in EnVIE website) (in Heande)

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