Indoor Air Quality Information Must "Be Driven by Good Science."

Article excerpt

While there is growing public concern over the quality of indoor air, very little is known about the actual health effects, if any, resulting from everyday exposure to the thousands of substances found in the indoor environment, according to Dr. Jolanda Janczewski, Ph.D., MPH, Consolidated Safety Services, Inc. "Americans may spend as much as 90 percent of their day indoors," Janczewski said, "and may feel they are avoiding the risks of smog and outdoor pollution. In fact, concentrations of some pollutants can be significantly higher indoors than outdoors."

Janczewski's remarks were included in a presentation to business leaders at an indoor air quality symposium in St. Louis October 21, sponsored by the National Environmental Development Association's Total Indoor Environmental Quality Coalition (TIEQ).

Tighter, energy-efficient building designs introduced during the energy crisis of the 1970s circulate less fresh, outside air. This factor, combined with others including dust, pollen, cigarette smoke and fumes from carpeting, wall coverings and office machines can result in a variety of physical symptoms such as headaches, watery eyes, scratchy throats and nausea.

Because other factors such as employee stress, temperature, humidity, lighting, individual allergies and office ergonomics may affect health, Janczewski said, "before any government action is taken, we must know the facts. Public policy should be driven by good science."

"Public concern over 'sick building syndrome' has led some lawmakers to propose comprehensive legislation that would regulate on a substance-by-substance basis," said Stephen Caldeira, executive director of TIEQ, "and could result in costly changes for businesses, possibly leading to real or de facto bans on certain products. …