Indoor Air Quality
4. Are certain people more vulnerable than others to indoor air pollution?
Some people are more vulnerable than others to indoor air
Credit: Stephan Czuratis
Certain groups are potentially more
vulnerable than others to
indoor air pollution. These include children, pregnant women,
people over 65 years of age, and persons suffering from
respiratory diseases (e.g.
asthma). Other factors that
may render some people more vulnerable are
genetic traits, lifestyle,
nutrition and – for some pollutants – other health problems
Depending on their age and on the chemical substance to which
they are exposed, children may be more
vulnerable than adults to
certain toxic substances.
They are more vulnerable than adults to lead and tobacco smoke,
and perhaps also to phosphorous-containing
pesticides. Studies on
outdoor air show that pollutants may disrupt the proper
development of the lungs in
foetuses and young
children. This effect on child lung development has been
observed at a level at which no adverse effects are seen in
adults, which suggests that children are more vulnerable than
adults. In addition, air pollutants may cause cough,
bronchitis and other
respiratory diseases, and make
asthma worse – though it is
difficult to determine exactly which pollutants are responsible
for a given effect.
nitrogen dioxide and
ozone are likely to be
Elderly people may be particularly
vulnerable to air pollution
because the ability to eliminate chemicals from the body
decreases with age. However, they may also be less sensitive to
some effects such as irritation of the eyes and nose.
from cardiovascular diseases
are more vulnerable to
particles and those suffering
from respiratory diseases such as
asthma are more vulnerable
to several air pollutants.
At present, several studies are investigating how pollutants
affect different groups of people. This research should help
It is recommended that science-based health
risk assessments always
take into account
vulnerable groups and that
each case be considered separately.