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Effects of Indoor Air Quality on Children and Young People’s Health

Objectives of the consultation

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), has established an Indoor Air Quality Working Group to produce an evidence-based report on the issues affecting the health of infants, children and young people exposed to poor indoor air quality in homes and schools, considering both indoor and outdoor sources of pollution. Indoor air quality refers to any airborne chemical or biological pollutants, as well as heat and moisture conditions. This work builds on the Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution report published by the RCP and RCPCH in 2016.

The report will raise awareness of existing evidence relating to indoor air quality and child health, make recommendations based on the available evidence, and highlight key areas where future research is needed. The Working Group published a call for evidence to feed into the report and CIBSE have been invited to respond.

The consultation closed on 20 December 2018.

Supporting papers

To download the consultation document, please follow the link below.

CIBSE response

As a built environment organization, CIBSE is not an expert on health effects, however, the institusion has been very active in compiling information from experts on pollutants and their effects, in order to provide advice on the measures that can be adopted through building design, construction and operation to avoid detrimental health effects. 

CIBSE believes that current Building Regulations Part F only addresses ventilation, without consideration of factors such as outdoor pollutants; it also has an incomplete approach to sources of indoor air pollution, as it is mainly concerned with moisture and combustion products from heating equipment and cooking appliances and does not properly address other sources, such as formaldehyde. While Approved Document F recommends a total VOC limit, this does not recognise that some VOCs (e.g. formaldehyde) are much more detrimental to health than others; furthermore, this TVOC limit is only for guidance and is widely acknowledged NOT to be used by designers or building control bodies. Another cause of concern is the lack of enforcement of existing requirements; not only does it affect buildings subject to Building Regulations, it also means there is a lack of knowledge and availability of low-emission building materials and other products used inside all buildings. More comprehensive and better enforced regulations would assist in developing a market for such solutions, which could ultimately benefit all buildings. There is an additional concern amongst Building Regulations experts that buildings with particularly low (i.e. good) airtightness performance, may not be adequately ventilated.

There is also growing concern about the possible effects of carbon monoxide in dwellings. CIBSE is aware of some buildings where carbon monoxide levels have been recorded during normal operation of the building services systems which are well in excess of safe levels.

CIBSE thinks important gaps in the mix of regulations, knowledge, skills and solutions that are needed for healthy indoor environments  are:

  • lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework for indoor air quality and overheating
  • lack of guidance on procedures and equipment for indoor air quality monitoring, striking a balance between costs and accuracy.
  • lack of knowledge and availability of solutions such as low-emission materials; to some extent this results from the lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework, as more comprehensive and well-enforced building regulations on the matter could help develop a market.  
  • Energy efficient housing retrofit projects can have unintended consequences on indoor air quality due to a number of factors including insufficient ventilation after airtightness improvements, or fabric degradation; there is not widespread knowledge of suitable solutions, and competence to deliver them.
  • Widespread operational issues resulting from inadequate design, installation, and maintenance.

To read the full CIBSE response, please follow the link below.