While this is mainly an issue of proper ventilation, which is not always realized in energy efficient buildings, another important element of indoor air quality is pollution – from surrounding outside air, and from products and materials used indoors.
An important factor affecting indoor air quality is pollution from products and materials used indoors. The emissions from products are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Some of them are natural based like the typical odour of pine trees. Some others are synthetic; for instance, additives and solvents used in paint. VOC can pose a serious health risk, especially to children.
Since many people spend much of their time indoors, long-term exposure to VOCs in the indoor environment can contribute to sick building syndrome. In offices for example, VOC results from new furnishings, carpets, wall coverings, and office equipment such as photocopy machines, which can off-gas VOCs into the air. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a medical condition where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason. The symptoms tend to increase in severity as more time people spend in the building, and improve over time or even disappear when people are away from the building.