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Indoor Air Quality Can Have Adverse Effects On Children's Health

Contributions of indoor microenvironments to the daily inhaled dose of air pollutants in children. The importance of bedrooms
Jesus Lizana, Susana Marta Almeida, Antonio Serrano-Jiménez, Jose Antonio Becerra, Maite Gil-Báez, Angela Barrios-Padura, Ricardo Chacartegui
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Indoor air quality affects children more than adults because their respiratory systems are still developing, and they breathe higher air volume per body weight. Research shows exposure to air pollutants increases the risk of severe respiratory illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, in young children and may cause headaches, drowsiness, and concentration loss, affecting school performance. As a result, previous research mostly focuses on indoor air quality in schools. But children spend 55 to 69 percent of their time at home, where they may be exposed to indoor pollutants from cooking, cosmetics, paints, cleaning products, air fresheners, smoking and incense, and wallpapers and adhesives. Researchers at the Universidad de Sevilla and Universidade de Lisboa investigated chemicals known to have adverse health effects in both schools and homes to learn how many indoor pollutants children inhale.

To conduct this study, the authors obtained and analyzed a broad portfolio of pollutants from 18 indoor microenvironments, including bedrooms, living rooms, and classrooms, in the Seville metropolitan area. The sampling period covered five days and monitors observed the time a person was exposed to pollutants of a specific concentration and the average exposure to pollutants throughout the day for children ages 3–12 and 12–18. The authors calculated the daily inhaled dose and contribution from each microenvironment and compared the values with recommended indoor air guidelines.

Key findings
  • Higher concentrations of indoor air pollutants were found in homes than in schools. Homes are responsible for 88 percent of the pollutants analyzed.
  • The highest exposure and inhalation of air pollution occur in bedrooms, which account for 56 percent (in the 3–12 age group) and 64 percent (in the 12–18 age group) of the daily inhaled dose of measured compounds. This may result from poor ventilation, high occupancy time, and a concentration of pollutant-emitting household products in the bedroom.
  • Among schools, higher aldehyde emissions are found in infant and primary schools than in secondary and high schools.
  • Aldehydes in home microenvironments account for 91 percent (in the 3–12 age group) and 89 percent (in the 12–18 age group) of total daily indoor aldehyde exposure.
  • Home environments accounted for 91 percent (in the 3–12 age group) and 87 percent (in the 12–18 age group) of total daily indoor exposure to volatile organic compounds, and 90 percent and 85 percent of the total daily inhaled dose.
  • Only benzene and formaldehyde had concentrations close to recommended limits.
Policy implications
  • Building guidelines and regulations should target reducing the presence of indoor air pollutants by implementing adequate ventilation systems in the housing stock.
  • Products and materials should be regulated through labeling or higher standards to control indoor pollutant emissions and provide greater awareness of product emissions.