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Scientists push for action on clean indoor air

  • 18 Mar 2024
Cleanair Main
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Doug Hilton AO, Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia and Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC.

Scientific leaders from multiple disciplines, spanning health, engineering and environment, as well as professional societies met today in Canberra to collectively advance action to improve indoor air quality. 

A briefing in Parliament House, hosted by the Australian Academy of Science, Burnet Institute, and CSIRO, demonstrated the science underpinning the need to prioritise clean indoor air, with international leaders providing examples of research and advances in other countries, including the adoption of regulations and standards in schools and public spaces.  

Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC said the pandemic had highlighted the need to better protect people from airborne viruses and improve indoor air quality interventions to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of transmissible diseases and airborne pollutants.    

“Australians spend 90 per cent of our time indoors but the air we breathe inside our public spaces – offices, schools and on public transport – is not always safe,” he said.  

“Air quality has an impact on our health and wellbeing, but many of us have no insight into the air quality of the buildings we inhabit every day.”  

“Clean indoor air is a human right, just like clean water and clean outdoor air.  It is a societal and occupational health and safety issue that is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, with major economic implications due to lost productivity and absenteeism.”  

Professor Crabb said studies had shown poor indoor air quality was linked to lower performance.   

“Multiple studies in classrooms and offices have shown that high levels of carbon dioxide, a marker of poor indoor air quality, is linked to reduced academic and work performance.” 

“The good news is that we have the science and the engineering solutions available now to address these negative impacts. We can start by monitoring indoor air quality and working towards setting standards like we do for outdoor air. This needs to be coupled with greater awareness across the community and by policy makers of the benefits of clean indoor air.”   

Australian Academy of Science Chief Executive Anna-Maria Arabia said the scientific evidence was clear – poor indoor air quality has significant detrimental impacts on our health and wellbeing.     

“We have made vast improvements in relation to outdoor air quality in relation to monitoring and standards, but we now need to turn our attention to indoor air quality, given we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors,” she said.   

“We have evidence-based technological solutions to improve air quality through monitoring, ventilation and filtration, now we need political leadership to implement these solutions.”