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The inside story: Health effects of indoor air quality on children and young people

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Children are spending more and more time inside buildings and the indoor air quality can affect their health. In fact, air pollution has been linked to serious health conditions, such as cancer, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.


The indoor air quality changes according to the building, the occupants, and the type of activities taking place inside. The main way people are exposed is by inhaling pollutants, but they can also be ingested or absorbed through the skin. This set of complex factors include:


  • Construction materials (e.g. long-term sources of VOCs, formaldehyde, etc.)
  • Building design (improved insulation must be supported with adequate ventilation)
  • Occupants´ activities (e.g. cooking, cleaning products, showering, etc.)

The report discusses about the links between indoor pollution and children’s respiratory health for children in three age slots (birth and infancy, pre-school and school age). It also proposes ways to remove sources of indoor pollutants and strategies to reduce the effects of them on children. For example, this can be done by using ventilation (both natural and mechanical), by applying legislation and building regulations to regulate the use of dangerous substances.


This report presents a systematic review of scientific studies about effects of indoor pollution on children´s health. It also provides some recommendations for action. The RCPCH &Us engagement team visited youth centres, schools and paediatric clinics in hospitals, speaking with over 200 young people and their families about indoor air quality. Young people, parents and carers came together to identify the common themes and experience that were shared.


The Inside Story reports the findings and recommendations from both the experts and young people. It explains evidence and advice about how we should ensure indoor air quality does not pose a health risk to children.


The responsibility for clean air cannot solely rest with individuals. Different professions and parts of government must work together to make sure that buildings are fit for purpose.