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ANSES changes its method of developing indoor air guideline values (IAGVs)

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News of 28/06/2011

29 June 2011

Just like the quality of outdoor air, the quality of air inside buildings is a public health concern. In temperate climates, each person spends an average of 85% of their time in enclosed environments, the majority of that time in the home. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid in France to the quality of indoor air.

In 2001 the government set up the French Indoor Air Quality Observatory (OQAI), run by the French Scientific and Technical Centre for Building (CSTB). In connection with the activities of this Observatory, in which it has a key role, ANSES issued an internal request in order to define indoor air guideline values (IAGVs). These are health-based values whose aim is to provide a basis for protecting the population from adverse health effects related to exposure to air pollution by a substance through inhalation, and to eliminate or reduce contaminants having a negative effect on human health. They therefore serve to help the authorities set values for managing the quality of indoor air. In terms of public policies, "indoor air guideline values" can be defined by regulatory decree(1). In this context, the French High Council for Public Health was asked to determine benchmark values to aid management for various pollutants of indoor air, based on the work by ANSES.

Within ANSES, this activity, led by the Agency's Expert Committee on assessment of the risks related to air environments, was carried out by a dedicated working group.

In 2007, the Agency published a general method for developing IAGVs and a list of 12 priority substances for which such values were to be developed. Since then, IAGVs have been published for seven substances(2).

In the light of experience gained during this work, ANSES decided to change its development method for IAGVs and today released an update along with a new list of priority substances for which IAGVs are to be established.

The proposed changes

Until now, when proposing IAGVs, ANSES would write the toxicological profile of the substance, identify the critical effect and mechanism of action to be considered and select the guideline values or health-based guidance values (HBGVs) available in the literature, which were found to be satisfactory in terms of the predefined quality criteria. Now, if considered necessary, the Agency will itself establish an IAGV.
In addition, the IAGVs proposed by ANSES will now be systematically accompanied by an analysis of the available measurement methods and guidance on the sampling strategy. The established values will also be placed in perspective, risk situations will be identified and, where available, information will be included by which the health gain associated with compliance with the IAGV could be quantified.

As part of its continued expert appraisal work, ANSES has updated the list of priority substances on the basis of the new ranking of compounds of interest in indoor environments proposed by the OQAI in 2010. For the period 2011-2012, therefore, the Agency plans to produce expert appraisals for the following contaminants:

  • acrolein,
  • 1,4-dichlorobenzene,
  • acetaldehyde,
  • chloroform,
  • fluorene,
  • ethylbenzene,
  • nitrogen dioxide.

(1) In accordance with the Act No. 2008-757 of 1 August 2008 on environmental responsibility and various provisions for adapting European law in the area of the environment
(2) Formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, naphthalene, trichloroethylene, particles and tetrachloroethylene

Find out more

  • The Opinion and Report on the changes to the method of developing indoor air guideline values (IAGVs) (in French)