Restrictions on tobacco smoke and the Asbestos scandal have put indoor air quality under the spotlight in the recent past, resulting in tough policies to stop damage to human health. While tobacco continues to be the biggest health culprit, nowadays attention is also turning to “chemical cocktails,” toxic fumes from heating and cooking, and damp and mould caused by poor ventilation.

A recent EU-funded research project called Airmex – European Indoor Air Monitoring and Exposure Assessment – found that levels of many harmful air pollutants are in fact greater indoors than outdoors.

In a mid-term review of its Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, the Commission mentioned tobacco control measures among the main achievements of addressing indoor air quality at EU level. Others included an opinion on air fresheners delivered by the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER).

The EU executive said it now wanted to take the fight against air pollution to the next level by tackling indoor air quality. In a statement annexed to the 2008 air quality directive, the Commission announced it would consider measures to reduce emissions from domestic boilers and water heaters, as well as those emitted by the solvent content of paints, varnishes and vehicle-refinishing products.

Brussels seems to have lost appetite for big environmental initiatives. In response to queries from EurActiv, a Commission spokesperson said indoor air quality was not a legal competence of the European Union and that responsibility fell mainly on the member states.

In its mid-term review of the Environment and Health Action Plan, the EU executive said future actions on indoor air quality “will focus on information to the public and professionals, exchange of best practices at national and local level and on coordination of ongoing policies linked to indoor air quality”.

We will keep you informed of any regulatory changes pertaining to indoor air quality.