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Tough new air quality targets contained in updated World Health Organisation (WHO) should inspire the industry to redouble its efforts on indoor air quality, according to James Henley.

Much anticipated guidance from the World Health Organisation has considerably raised the stakes for engineers involved in improving the air quality inside buildings.

In its first update to air quality guidelines since 2005, the WHO blamed exposure to pollution for seven million premature deaths a year worldwide. It slashed the recommended maximum levels for several pollutants, including particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) saying there was “clear evidence” that air pollution harmed human health “at even lower concentrations than previously understood”.

Its scientists reviewed more than 500 separate studies before updating its guidance and the pandemic has also clearly influenced their thinking. As a result it has revised almost all of its previous maximum target levels for airborne pollutants downwards. It linked long-term exposure to even relatively low concentrations of ambient and household air pollution to lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes – putting the health impact of pollution on a par with poor diet and smoking while making it a bigger killer than car crashes.

It halved the recommended limit for average annual exposure to PM2.5 from 10 micrograms per cubic metre to five. It also lowered the recommended limit for PM10 from 20 micrograms to 15.

“Almost 80% of deaths related to PM2.5 could be avoided if current air pollution levels were reduced to those proposed in the updated guideline,” it said, explaining that these particulates are primarily generated by fuel combustion in transport, energy, households, industry, and agriculture.


The environmental lawyers ClientEarth pointed out that this means legal pollution limits for PM2.5 and NO2 in the UK are now four times higher than WHO recommendations.

A statement from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the government would be setting “ambitious targets” through its forthcoming Environment Bill.

“We will consider the updated WHO guidelines on PM2.5 to inform the development of air quality targets, but we must not underestimate the challenges these would bring, particularly in large cities and for people’s daily lives.”

However, the UK government also does not anticipate consulting on the new guidance until sometime next year. Meanwhile, the pollution crisis continues to intensify, and more buildings find themselves subject to rising levels of indoor airborne contaminants as well.

The building services industry has an array of solutions at its disposal as awareness grows of the important role of mechanical ventilation and air filtration can play in safeguarding health and well-being.

At Daikin Applied, we are conscious that the first step is to measure and monitor levels of indoor pollutants so building managers know the extent and nature of the challenge they face before they consider potential solutions.

Our new Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Sensor offers a powerful measurement and monitoring tool for managing the building environment to enhance the wellbeing of occupants and visitors in small commercial buildings, schools, restaurants, and retail outlets.

A standalone, compact device, the new IAQ Sensor sits easily on any flat surface or can be wall mounted. Setup and configuration takes less than a minute using the downloadable App. Connected to a collection server through Wi-Fi, the device continuously monitors a range of environmental parameters to provide a comprehensive picture of air quality, with a choice of information display formats from the mobile App and online to video wall displays.

Customised reporting with programmable alerts enables corrective action as required to ensure clean, fresh air.

The WHO has once again highlighted the importance of air quality, but still many people struggle to visualise the problem inside buildings. By measuring and monitoring we can make the invisible visible and show facilities managers which pollutants they need to tackle and the solutions available.

Most of us spend over 90% of our time indoors, where pollution can be up to two to five times worse than breathing outside air, affecting the wellbeing of individuals over time.

When designing HVAC systems, delivering optimal climate conditions is about more than cooling and heating alone. Ensuring adequate air filtration to remove dust, pollens, and odours harmful to health is important.


Equally incorporating sufficient ventilation to dilute and remove airborne pollutants and protect against contaminants, allergens, and viruses, while maintaining the correct humidity level in air-conditioned spaces is essential to building health.

The Daikin IAQ Sensor offers immediate, real-time tracking and control. It comes with 12 sensors and 15 parameters, measuring a range of factors from ambient light, air and sound pressure to temperature and humidity.

Measuring dust and air quality, the device also collects information on electro smog, levels of CO2 and Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) generated by, for example, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectant.

The IAQ Sensor connects with Daikin’s Caelum monitoring platform. In addition to displaying data in real time, the platform allows periodic reports to be generated from the data collected, customizable by frequency and content type. Its tracking system is highly scalable, enabling the user to track multiple tenants or buildings.

As well as helping users to understand how the environment affects the health and productivity of staff and visitors, better tracking information enables them to control their whole HVAC system to include energy recovered through transferring heat and moisture between airflows.

The inclusion of an IAQ Sensor can also help improve LEED and WELL building certification scores by earning IAQ credits.

It is also a good way to demonstrate to your building occupants that you are taking this issue seriously. As more people seek to return to more normal building use in the wake of the pandemic, this will prove a highly valuable feature.







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