The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of having good strategies to improve and monitor indoor air quality, especially in public spaces. The Indoor Air Quality Platform, initiated by the Federal Public Services Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment (FPS Health), offers advice to implement new guidelines related to the indoor air quality of public spaces. It also offers a forum of consultation for the concerned players (horeca, culture and sports sectors). In collaboration with the FPS Health, Sciensano provides scientific input such as characterising the indoor air quality of public indoor spaces and helps to define “clean” air.
Indoor air contains a mixture of chemical and microbial compounds. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can affect the health of exposed people. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to prioritise design strategies to improve IAQ in post-pandemic times. To this end, the law of 6 November 2022 aiming at improving indoor air quality in enclosed public spaces went into effect in Belgium and the Indoor Air Quality Platform was created by the FPS Health.
This new platform groups
- public instances
- representatives of the sectors concerned (restaurants, hotels, cafés, cultural and event sector, sports sector,…)
- manufacturers of ventilation and air purifying systems
The platform’s tasks include being a contact point for IAQ, promoting knowledge sharing and support for scientific studies on IAQ, and providing policy advice on IAQ.
In collaboration with the FPS Health (Unit Indoor Air Quality), Sciensano works on several topics such as the chemical and microbial characterisation of indoor air in public spaces. Moreover, we study the relationship between indoor and outdoor air quality as well as the influence of different indoor sources (furniture, construction materials, ..), of ventilation systems and of air purifiers on the indoor air quality. This provides scientific input to define “clean” air and enables the implementation of new indoor air quality guidelines. Finally, in a later phase, we study the health effects of indoor air pollution.
As a first step, based on the available literature, Sciensano scientists created an extensive list of pollutants, including 125 chemical and 120 microbial pollutants. From this list, the most important pollutants were retained by national and international experts. Next, methods and sensors were selected to measure the shortlisted pollutants (with a focus on real-time continuous measurement for the chemical pollutants). Suppliers and manufacturers were contacted and sensors and (reference) instruments were purchased. Very soon, these instruments will be tested in public spaces as well indoors as outdoors. This will allow the research team to investigate the influence of outdoor air on the IAQ and to have a first view on the pollutants present in public spaces.