Indoor air quality

Contrary to popular belief, most of our exposure to hazardous pollutants occurs in places we consider safe – our indoor environments, such as homes, schools, health care facilities, and workplaces.

We spend more than 90% of our time indoors, and levels of pollutants are usually several times higher indoors than outdoors. Paradoxically, these pollutants are regulated outdoors but not indoors, even though the greatest risks occur indoors.

Primary sources of these pollutants are also considered safe – our everyday consumer products, such as cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and personal care products. However, consumer products are not required to disclose all ingredients, so the public has little information about their exposure to pollutants. Even so-called ‘green’ products can emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular products.  And ‘green’ buildings may promote energy efficiency but not necessarily the health of occupants.

Professor Steinemann’s research program investigates the causes and consequences of exposure to pollutants, with a focus on indoor built environments. She examines this problem from different dimensions, researching topics of healthy buildings and indoor air environments, consumer product and building material emissions, climate-related effects, chemical analysis of products, and toxicity and health effects.  Her research takes an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together academic and industry collaborators in engineering, chemistry, atmospheric science, law, medicine, public policy and public health.

A bar graph showing indoor to outdoor concentration ratios of pollutants in a green building

Further information

Dean’s Lecture 2017: Hidden hazards: common consumer products and indoor environments

In this Dean’s Lecture, Professor Anne Steinemann will discuss the hidden hazards in our consumer products and indoor environments, and offer practical solutions.