Introduction The European project OFFICAIR (funded from the European Union FP7) was aimed at broadening the existing knowledge regarding indoor air quality (IAQ) in modern office buildings, i.e., recently built or refurbished buildings, across Europe.
Methods A survey was performed in 167 modern office buildings (7440 office workers) from 8 European countries (ES, FI, FR, GR, HU, IT, NL and PT) by a self-administrated on line questionnaire and a walk-through into the building with compilation of checklists. The questionnaire mainly investigated the environmental perception and symptoms correlated to IAQ. In a subset of 35 buildings also IAQ air quality parameters were investigated.
Results Indoor air concentrations of volatile organic compounds and ozone were lower than their respective WHO air quality guidelines; those of acrolein, α-pinene, and d-limonene were lower than their estimated thresholds for irritative and respiratory effects; the indoor concentrations of PM2.5 appeared high when compared to the 24 hour and annual WHO air quality guidelines. Frequent negative environmental perceptions (>30%) for air too dry, air stuffy, air smelly, noise from inside building in modern office buildings and frequent eye symptoms (>20%) were reported. Environmental perceptions were associated to mould growth, acoustical solutions, cleaning activities; symptoms were associated to number of occupants, lack of operable windows, presence of carpet, and cleaning activities. Office workers with high efforts and low rewards had a higher risk of building related symptoms suggesting complex effects of psychosocial factors on symptoms.
Discussions In modern office buildings, the occupants often complain negative environmental perceptions and eye symptoms. A team approach in order to evaluate and manage indoor air quality is recommended, through an integration of building assessment, questionnaire survey, and indoor air quality measurements. Psychosocial environment should also be considered in order to provide a healthy work environment.
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