European Cooperation in Science and Technology

Understanding the risks of indoor pollutants: INDAIRPOLLNET

European Cooperation in Science and Technology

While people spend 80 to 90% of their time indoors, it is not common knowledge that this is where we receive most of our exposure to air pollution.
As our indoor activities have significantly increased in the current context of the pandemic, it is essential to better grasp in what circumstances the concentration of air pollutants could be higher indoors than outdoors. This is the purpose of COST Action “Indoor Air Pollution Network” (INDAIRPOLLNET) that specifically focuses on improving our understanding of the cause of high concentration of indoor air pollutants.

Regulations for air pollution generally look at outdoor exposures rather than indoor environments. But many activities, such as cleaning or cooking, can significantly impact the amount of existing pollutants in interiors. Additionally, the measures to reinforce buildings’ isolation’ systems also increase the quantity of indoor pollutants by making accommodations more airtight. Related energy efficiency measures are essential to mitigate climate change impacts. But to effectively reduce consequences of air pollution on people’s health, we must consider both the indoor and outdoor environments and the role of ventilation to alleviate through appropriate building operation, use and design.

Kicked-off in 2018, the COST Action INDAIRPOLLNET brings together multidisciplinary experts from areas such as chemistry, particular matter characterization, toxicology, building materials, physics and engineering, with the aim of advancing the field of indoor air pollution science.   

“Indoor Air Quality research existed in pockets around Europe before INDAIRPOLLNET, but this Action has helped us to coordinate those activities into a more blended community” INDAIRPOLLNET’s Chair, Dr Nicola Carslaw

Cross-collaborations through COST Actions

Members of INDAIRPOLLNET’s research team have been involved in other COST Actions focusing also on air quality and climate research, such as the COST Action COLOSSAL. These additional collaborations across and beyond COST Actions benefited the research undertaken around this topic.

 “Not only the state-of-the-art reports and discussions but the link to other experts largely benefitted our scientific work and prompted in some cases in key collaborations to apply jointly for new projects. We are applying jointly for a large Green Deal proposal on indoor air. We are very happy to be involved in the Action, and thanks to COST for supporting networks such as INDAIRPOLLNET and COLOSSAL.”

Prof. Xavier Querol, INDAIRPOLLNET’s Vice Chair.

Research National Award in Sciences and Technologies of Natural Resources

This pillar is triggering increasing interest as our societal context involves more and more indoor habits. On 18 may 2021, Prof Xavier Querol has received the Research National Award “Alejandro Malaspina” in Sciences and Technologies of Natural Resources, the highest recognition of scientific research in Spain. Awarded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and given by the King of Spain, Querol receives it for “his leadership in the development of technologies, methodologies, models and scientific contributions to understand the importance of aerosols and their interaction with pollutants and human health translating the scientific knowledge that he has developed into policies that ensure public health and ecosystem health”.

“It goes without saying that receiving this prestigious award is a great honour for me, but also I appreciate a lot the recognition of contributions from atmospheric/environmental sciences, field of our research. It is also relevant to highlight that in our science results are not produced by a single person but by research teams supported by institutions.”

Prof Xavier Querol, INDAIRPOLLNET’s Vice Chair.

Recommendations for future indoor air pollution science

INDAIRPOLLNET has produced several publications so far covering important aspects of indoor air quality and most recently, a guide for schools on reducing the risk of COVID transmission.

All of these publications are available on INDAIRPOLLNET’s website. This Action has also published an editorial in the journal Indoor Air, that describes the state of the art with indoor air science currently, as well as areas for future research.

INDAIRPOLLNET continues its work towards data collation, review, and formation of rigorous recommendations for future indoor air pollution science. Its goal is to highlight future research areas and to bridge the gap between research and business to identify appropriate mitigation strategies that optimise IAQ. The findings will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders such as architects, building engineers and instrument manufacturers.

“I have greatly enjoyed participating in this Action, starting from the process of contacting scientists around Europe to help me put the proposal together in the first place, organising and attending meetings and network activities with excellent support from COST staff and now really starting to see the results of our hard work being produced as we enter our final year.” – Dr Nicola CARSLAW, Chair of INDAIRPOLLNET.

More information

COST Action INDAIRPOLLNET on COST website here

COST Action INDAIRPOLLENT website here

COST Action COLOSSAL on COST website here

COST Action COLOSSAL website here

COST latest newsletter on COVID-19 (September 2021) here