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INEGI study warns of newborns' exposure to indoor air pollution

12 October 2020
A team of INEGI researchers evaluated the environmental conditions to which children are exposed in early life, in the interior of several houses in the district of Porto, and concluded that there are pollutants that, in case of continued exposure, may represent a risk to children's health.

The study consisted of a survey of more than 300 families, and an analysis of indoor air quality in 30 homes, where, in all, 60 babies under the age of one lived. Among the conclusions, it highlights the detection of deficient ventilation conditions and the apparent increase in chemical air pollution associated with products such as cleaning agents or air fresheners, in addition to the use of charcoal and wood for heating, smoking indoors and the existence of conditions for the proliferation of humidity and mold in a relevant number of homes.

This study resulted in the publication of a Guide to Good Practices and Recommendations, aimed at helping families to promote the best indoor air quality in their homes, safeguarding the health of their children.

Marta Gabriel, responsible for the project at INEGI, explains that "there is still a lack of information about the harmful effects of polluting emissions, and many parents are unaware that certain building materials, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, or perfumed products can significantly impact air quality in the home”.

The importance of ventilating spaces, choosing products and materials labeled with low emission of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC), avoiding declared sources of pollution, drying clothes inside the house, or limiting the use of humidifiers, are some of the recommendations.

Materials and products used at home affect air quality

Marta Gabriel points out that "children under 1 year of age are particularly susceptible to environmental factors". That is why the environmental characterization was extensive.

The study included the monitoring of a wide panel of indicators, namely comfort (temperature and relative humidity), ventilation conditions (carbon dioxide), and pollution levels (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and volatile organic compounds, fungi and bacteria).

The study, which was carried out between 2018 and 2019, is now more relevant due to the current pandemic. "In addition to the fact we tend to spend more time confined at home, the scientific community has been supporting the hypothesis of the existence of a potentiating effect between exposure to air pollution and lethality by COVID-19".

The results of the survey carried out during the study, and the conclusions of the on-field analysis were recently published in the journal Environmental Research, in the march and november editions, respectively. The project was carried out under the iniciatives HEBE - Health, Comfort and Energy in the Built Environment, co-financed by the Northern Regional Operational Program (NORTE2020), through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and HEALS - Health and Environment-wide Associations based on Large Population Surveys, co-financed by the European Commission.

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