23/03/2015

A new system to establish health-protective limits for the emission of hazardous chemicals from products used in our homes, schools and offices has been developed by the EU-LCI Working Group.

VITO researchers, as members of the EU-LCI Working Group, have contributed to the development of a new procedure which is intended to be adopted and applied across Europe.  It has established limits for the acceptable level of emissions of hazardous substances from building products for use by regulators and manufacturers to protect occupants against possible risks to health. A new web site is now available that explains and reports the recommended limit values.

Concerns about the impact of poor indoor air quality on health have grown in recent years.  Of particular concern is a range of substances known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. These are released from a wide range of building materials, furnishings and consumer products as well as other sources such as smoking of tobacco and growth of mold in damp rooms.

The need to evaluate products to ensure that they are suitable for modern indoor environments and do not emit chemicals that can be hazardous to health is considered a high priority by the European Commission and national authorities. It is also a critical factor when assessing the sustainability of products.

Cranfield’s Dr Derrick Crump, Reader in Environment and Health said: “We all spend large amounts of time inside and the quality of the air we breathe is critical to enable us to work productively and ensure that our health is not compromised. With the advancements in construction, to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, there has been an increase in airtight construction, and a consequent need to reduce the sources of indoor pollution.”

Across Europe there are a number of differing schemes to assess product emissions, but these vary from country to country. It is intended that the new method will provide a consistent European approach, including the basis of labelling products in the future to indicate the likely impact on a buildings’ air quality and any associated potential risk to health.

Already, authorities in Belgium and Germany have agreed to adopt these limits to protect their population against risks to health.  In Belgium, these limits are applied in the Royal Decree of May 8th 2014  establishing threshold levels for the emissions to the indoor environment from construction products. The Royal Decree entered into force 1st January 2015 for a first important group of construction products, namely floor covering materials.

More information

Please visit VITO’s web page Environment, Health and Safety.

 

Share this article