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Keywords:

  • ventilation;
  • humidity;
  • mites;
  • allergens;
  • air quality;
  • indoor

Background

Poor ventilation in modern, highly insulated housing is an important factor in promoting indoor humidity levels to exceed 7 g/kg in cold climatic regions.

Objective

To investigate the ventilation rate in houses with different ventilation systems in relation to indoor air humidity, domestic mite allergen levels and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Methods

Measurements were performed regarding ventilation rate, indoor temperature, air humidity, mattress mite allergen concentrations using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and total indoor VOC in 59 similarly constructed one-storey single-dwelling houses. In 22 of the houses, a mechanical supply and exhaust ventilation were installed after construction.

Results

In only five of the houses with mechanical supply and exhaust ventilation the air exchange rate per hour (ACH) was below 0.5 compared with 24 of the 29 houses with natural ventilation (OR = 0.06, CI 95% 0.01–0.2). None of the 23 houses with an ACH ≥ 0.5 had an absolute indoor humidity (AIH) of 7 g/kg air or more, compared with 10 of the 36 houses with an ACH < 0.5 (P = 0.01 ). In none of the 23 houses with an ACH ≥ 0.5 were concentrations of mite allergen exceeding 2 μg/g of dust found, compared with six of the 36 houses (17%) with an ACH below 0.5 (P = 0.04). Further, 10 of the 34 houses with a total VOC exceeding 200 μg/m3 had mite allergen in mattress dust exceeding 0.5 μg/g, compared with one of the 22 houses with VOC < 200 μg/m3 (P = 0.04).

Conclusion

The study shows that in modern, highly insulated, one-storey single-dwelling houses in cold temperate regions, mechanical ventilation increases the possibility of reaching an ACH of ≥ 5 which protects against indoor humidity levels contributing to mite survival as well as high levels of indoor air pollutants in winter.