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Blueprint for mandating indoor air quality for public buildings

A group of international experts, including Professor Amanda Kennedy from the QUT School of Law and ACHLR Adjunct Professor Belinda Bennett, has presented a blueprint for national indoor quality standards for public buildings, in an article in the prestigious journal Science.

The research, led by QUT Distinguished Professor Lidia Morawska, addressed setting standards for three key indoor pollutants – carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), PM2.5 which are particles so small they can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream – and ventilation rate.

Distinguished Professor Morawska, from the QUT School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, internationally known, among others, for leading the appeal to the WHO to recognise the airborne transmission spread of the Covid-19 virus early in the pandemic, has continued to raise the importance of adequate indoor air quality for public spaces.

“Most countries do not have any legislated indoor air quality (IAQ) performance standards for public spaces that address concentration levels of IA pollutants,” Professor Morawska said.

“To have practical value, IAQ standards must be implementable by designing new buildings that are built, operated and maintained to standard or retrofitted to meet the standards.

“While there is a cost in the short term, the social and economic benefits to public health, wellbeing and productivity will likely far outweigh the investment in cost in achieving clean indoor air.”

Amanda KennedyProfessor Amanda Kennedy (pictured, right), from the QUT School of Law, highlights the potential legal implications for governments and owners of public buildings.

“The importance of indoor air quality is often overlooked and remains largely unregulated in many jurisdictions. But the evidence is clear – exposure to indoor air pollutants is a serious public health risk, particularly given the significant amount of time people spend indoors,” Professor Kennedy said.

“Governments and owners of public buildings can and must tackle this challenge by establishing and implementing IAQ standards based on robust scientific evidence.

“Further, while the regulation of IAQ is complex, this should not be a barrier to legislative action. Examples from some jurisdictions have demonstrated how existing legal frameworks (such as work health and safety, or environmental law) can be utilised to address IAQ, while others (such as the United States) are already developing model IAQ laws for States to adopt.”

More information

Mandating indoor air quality standards in public buildings was published in Science.

To find out more, visit QUT News.

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