Issue 35, 15 August 2012

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RiskEnews - 5th August 2012, Issue No.35



Highlights from Healthy Buildings 2012 plus upcoming seminars

Indoor Air Contaminants - New Findings

More than 700 delegates (who submitted over 600 papers) attended this prestigious international conference held in July in Brisbane. There were a number of key findings on indoor air contaminants revealed at Healthy Buildings. These involved Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Nitrous Oxides, Ultra fine particles, Nano-materials, Semi-VOCs, Secondary Organic Aerosols and Microbials.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Secondary emissions are now a concern. Re-emission of VOCs absorbed onto carpet and ceiling tiles occurs long after the new-office odours have gone. Short-term VOC emissions during construction turn into long-term emissions.

A number of mortars and screeds have been shown to emit significant amounts of toxic VOCs following curing, originating from product additives.

Dr Pawel Wargocki, International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy - University of Denmark, Allan Firth - Carpet Institure of Australia, Dr Vyt Garnys - CETEC

Nitrous Oxides (NOX) from Tri-gen plants ends up in indoor air

Without gaseous filtration on air intake, nitrous oxides, including the harmful nitrogen dioxide can end up back within a building at levels that can be dangerous to human health. A more considered and holistic approach is required when implementing trigeneration systems, and this should involve a risk assessment of the site and the occupants.

Ultra-fine particles, less than 100 nanometres

Numerous international papers were presented covering source and behaviour under different indoor conditions. Currently unregulated and much smaller than the regulated PM10 and PM2.5 dust classifications from outdoor sources such as cars and indoor sources such as laser printers.


Increasingly nano-materials are being added to many new building materials and furniture. New studies on the behaviour of nano-material dust in indoor air under different building operating conditions.

Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)

Some SVOCs are human endocrine disruptors including:

  • Phthalates plasticisers, used in plastics
  • Fire retardants added to building materials, such as PCBs. Concrete adjacent to gap sealants or insulation can ‘soak’ up the fire retardants then release them into the indoor air over time
  • Pesticides

SVOCs are very persistent in the indoor environment, staying around for years. Now exposures are correlated with common human diseases.

Secondary Organic Aerosols (SOAs)

SOAs are formed from oxidation of common VOCs.  Many cases were covered, for example limonene (lemon extract used in most cleaning products) is broken down by ozone or photooxidation and has been shown to form other significantly more toxic secondary products.


Sneezed saliva particles can now be modelled in detail using CFD. Most exposure occurs in air, rather than surface contact, showing the importance of adequate ventilation and indoor air filtration.

Seminars on findings from Healthy Buildings - Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide coming in November

CETEC is planning seminars in November (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide) to present the findings from Healthy Buildings. Dates and venues TBC with more details coming soon. To register your interest.

Additionally, CETEC conducted valuable research during the conference in the areas of occupant performance and air quality and this data will be shared at the seminars.

CETEC's International IEQ Productivity Masterclass

Chaired by Jack Noonan following Healthy Buildings, the key speakers, Dr Pawel Wargocki, Dr Christian Scherer, Dr Vyt Garnys and Andrew Bellamy presented the latest knowledge on the evidence that IEQ influences building occupant satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity based on research, equipment development and building studies. Future directions were explored by audience participation.

For CETEC presentations made at Healthy Buildings 2012, we refer you to our website publications. 

You may also be interested in reading The Fifth Estate article: Healthy Buildings 2012: Verwer goes on attack on IEQ.

Healthy Buildings 2012 was held in Brisbane on 8-12 July | Visit for more info.


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