Better indoor air quality

Updated 10/31/2019

In Western societies, people spend around 80% of their time indoors. The air we breathe can have an important impact on our health. So ADEME has been tirelessly working across many fronts to allow our buildings to breathe.

“The World health organisation (WHO) estimates the number of premature deaths linked to the quality of indoor air at 4.5 million around the world,” tells us Souad Bouallala, referent engineer at ADEME’s air quality department. “The impact of indoor air pollution is thus a major public health issue. For all that, this problem has for too long taken a back seat, as the focus was strictly on outdoor air.” Indeed, it was only really with the creation of the French indoor air quality observatory in 2001 that the issue came to the fore.

The observatory has allowed public authorities to develop a better understanding of the various factors of indoor air quality and the levels of exposure of the population. In 2009, the second National Environmental Health Plan introduced a regulatory system by implementing labelling for polluting emissions from construction and decoration-related products. This text has also made it compulsory to periodically carry out surveys of buildings that house people that are particularly sensitive or have been exposed to poor air quality for long periods of time. This requirement will come into effect in 2018.

Three major approaches for ADEME

“In 2010, the so-called ‘Grenelle 2’ law validated ADEME’s work in the field of air quality (indoor and outdoor): offer and support of measures and action plans aiming to improve air quality that complement governmental policies,” continues Souad Bouallala. Since then, the Agency’s work has only increased in scope. It is structured around three major approaches. The first one consists in improving understanding of the various outdoor environments. In parallel, ADEME improves and supports efforts to inform and raise awareness of best practice amongst all groups (private individuals, schools, building industry professionals, etc.). “As for our third approach it is our work on the ground in itself,” adds Souad Bouallala.“It is what we do with the indoor air quality management methodology applied to the building industry, which we hope will increase awareness about indoor air quality issues amongst industry professionals.”Finally, ADEME also works directly with local authorities that wish to implement initiatives to improve indoor air quality. The work done by these regional and local authorities is indeed “a sign that awareness is improving,”concludes Souad Bouallala.

France: setting the example

Is France doing better or worse than other countries when it comes to indoor air quality? To ind that out, an international benchmark, devised by ADEME in partnership with the ministries for an ecological and solidary transition, housing and health, has allowed them to draw up a list of 265 public policies in favour of indoor air quality that are implemented across 24 countries. Other than highlighting France’s lead in the field on a European level, this work has also helped them identify a dozen new avenues to explore from countries such as Sweden, Canada, South Korea and the US. This document will be published and circulated this coming Autumn on the ADEME website.