Indoor air quality (IAQ) is of prime importance to human health because we spend >80% of our time indoors. Occupants of indoor environments may be exposed to a variety of pollutants originating from human activities or presence in the home, combustion for heating and cooking, consumer products,furnishings, building materials and outdoor air. Because of the potentially adverse effects to human health resulting from exposure to pollutants in the home, the ‘Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality’ were developed. Exposure limits were prepared for the following compounds or groups of compounds: aldehydes, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde,nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, water vapour and radon. In addition, the guidelines suggest recommendations for controlling exposure to some contaminants for which the formulation of acceptable exposure ranges was deemed inappropriate or was not feasible. This group includes: biological agents, chlorinated hydrocarbons, fibrous materials, lead, pest control products, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,product aerosols and tobacco smoke. A review of five substances (xylenes,toluene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, benzene and tetrachloroethylene) to determine potential health risks has revealed the primary route of exposure to be through indoor air. They will be considered for guideline development and possible inclusion in the existing Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality. Health Canada has an active research programme including a variety of projects: a survey of the occurrence of selected volatile organic compounds in Canadian residences representing a range of energy efficiencies; development and evaluation of analytical methods for measurement of human exposure to airborne organics; a study to measure home dampness and moulds to validate the observed association between respiratory health and indicators of home dampness; and participation in projects related to energy conservation and air quality as part of the research programme of the Panel on Energy Research and Development.

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