Our lack of understanding of the health risks related to air pollutants exposure in buildings is perceived as a major deficiency, even though 80% of our time is spent indoors. In this context the Observatory on Indoor Air Quality (OQAI) has been set up by the French authorities to collect data on population exposure to indoor pollutants in various indoor environments (dwellings, schools, offices, sports and leisure centers, etc.) to be used for public policies development. Accordingly, OQAI undertook a national survey on indoor air quality in dwellings with a four-fold objective:
(1) to compile a descriptive inventory of indoor air quality in dwellings
(2) to identify high-risk situations by estimating the exposure of populations occupying these premises
(3) to draw up an initial list of parameters influencing the presence of this pollution (sources, type of housing, ventilation, human activities, seasons, geographical situation, etc.)
(4) to generate advice and guidelines in order to improve indoor air quality in dwellings.
A large amount of information has been collected from 567 dwellings (1612 individuals questioned), representative of dwellings in France. This snapshot of indoor pollution focuses on more than 30 variables (chemical, biological and physical).
The first results show differences between indoors and outdoors. Most of the target compounds were found in most of the dwellings surveyed. Pollution in homes is not homogeneous: some homes had indoor pollutant concentrations much higher than the median concentrations observed. Approximately one dwelling in 10 had simultaneous high concentrations of several volatile organic compounds (VOC), while inversely 45% of dwellings had low concentrations of all target VOCs. Attached garages had higher VOC levels than the dwellings themselves. House dust mites constitute the most frequent source of allergens.