Exploring Effects of Indoor Exposure to Particulate Matter

Photo: Discussion at the indoor particulate matter workshop. Left to right: Guru Madhavan (IOM), Laura Kolb (USEPA), William Nazaroff (UC Berkeley, committee chair), Terry Brennan (Camroden Associates, committee member).

Photo Courtesy of Richard L. Corsi
Discussion at the indoor particulate matter workshop. Left to right: Guru Madhavan (IOM), Laura Kolb (USEPA), William Nazaroff (UC Berkeley, committee chair), Terry Brennan (Camroden Associates, committee member).
Photo Courtesy of Richard L. Corsi

Ambient particulate matter (PM) air pollution is a leading cause of illness and mortality in the United States. And while PM is a richly complex category of air pollution, almost all we know about its health effects reflects the consequences of indoor exposures to ambient PM, said COEH affiliate faculty William Nazaroff in his opening address as chair of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s workshop on the health risks of indoor exposure to PM.

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and although the indoor environment protects us from particles of outdoor air pollution to varying degrees, that protection is incomplete and variable. The average estimated infiltration rate of outdoor PM to the indoor environment is about 50 percent, Nazaroff reported in his address. Consequently, of the PM exposure that results from outdoor pollution, the majority — roughly 80 percent — occurs indoors. These conditions present a wealth of opportunities to intervene in a major health threat by reducing indoor particles of outdoor origin even as we work to reduce outdoor PM levels. Furthermore, there are important indoor sources of PM that contribute meaningfully to exposures and, quite probably, to substantial public health risks, Nazaroff concluded as he kicked-off the 1.5 day workshop.

Held February 10-11, 2016, in Washington, DC, organizers broadcast the workshop live to more than 400 viewers from 12 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and the United States.

Featuring 18 presentations from a diverse array of topical experts, workshop speakers characterized the state of the science on the health risks of greatest concern, the magnitude of the problem, vulnerable populations, exposure assessment, risk management approaches, and gaps in the science.

Nazaroff is the Daniel Tellep Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley and is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Indoor Air. He is the former president of the Academy of Fellows in the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate and also has served as president of the American Association for Aerosol Research. He is coauthor of Environmental Engineering Science. He served on two prior National Academy committees, coauthoring reports on Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health and on The Airliner Cabin Environment and the Health of Passengers and Crew.

To view workshop videos and presentations, visit: http://tinyurl.com/hmtln67

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