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Today, studies on the relationship between indoor air quality and health are increasingly being conducted. With the expansion of urban life, there appears to be a major impact on the health of the urban population by indoor air quality in commercial buildings.
This interest occurred after the discovery that low rates of air exchange in these environments cause a considerable increase in the concentration of chemical and biological pollutants in the air. As we all spend a good part of our daily lives indoors, whether at home, at work, in transport, or even in leisure places, the concern with concentrations of contaminants in the air indoors is justified.
The discipline that studies indoor air quality is new, with around 25 years in the world. It is a new area of study that brings together professionals from different disciplines, mainly chemists, microbiologists, engineers, architects, and toxicologists.
In the last few decades, there has been a large increase in complaints related to indoor air quality in developed countries, especially in artificial microclimate buildings. These complaints generated studies that were conducted in different countries and periods, indicating that the air inside the home and other indoor locations may be more polluted than the outside air in large industrialized cities.
Ironically, the worldwide energy conservation movement, triggered in the 1970s, contributed in a very striking way to current concerns regarding indoor air quality. In order to obtain better efficiency in the cooling and heating devices and, with this, to minimize the energy consumption, the office and residential buildings (mainly in developed countries located in cold weather) were built from that decade, aiming at a more efficient thermal sealing, appearing the so-called sealed buildings.
At the same time, there was a great increase in the diversity of products for lining, finishing, and furniture, which contains chemicals that can be dispersed in indoor air, available in the consumer market. These materials, in most cases, were developed without concern for their emissions. Currently, it is known that one of the causes of deterioration in indoor air quality is due to the emission of chemical substances, mainly volatile organic compounds (VOCs), present in the composition of construction materials, cleaning, and furniture.
The combination of these two factors can, as a rule, lead to poor indoor air quality. In summary, the existence of “sick buildings” coincides with changes in the internal environment, which occur not only due to the introduction of new products for construction materials, consumption, and furniture, but also due to architectural changes in the internal environment, with the aim of to save energy.
These studies have been carried out mainly in Europe and the United States. In some countries, differences related to climatic, socio-economic, geographic, and housing factors are quite evident. Currently, there is an awareness of the importance of indoor air quality in non-industrial places, such as schools, homes, public and commercial buildings. Several technological applications to improve indoor air quality such as raised access floors are increasingly popular day by day. This shows that public awareness of the importance of air quality for health is increasing.
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