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Air pollution from diesel engines exhausts causes cancer. What consequences for Indoor Air Quality?


18 Jun 2012


Health & Consumers

On 12 June 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified diesel engine exhausts as carcinogenic to humans, based on scientific evidence, reviewed thoroughly by a Working Group of experts, that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. Indeed, diesel engine exhausts emit ultrafine particulate matters (PM2.5) that are damaging for human health. Ultrafine particulate matters are not only found outdoors, but also in households due to the infiltration of these pollutants into buildings.

The classification change by IARC confirms the urgent need to reduce air pollutant emissions from diesel engines, and better integrate indoor air quality in all relevant policies in the field of energy efficiency, public health and air quality strategy, particularly in light of the review of the EU air quality strategy in 2013.

A report issued in the framework of the Clean Air For Europe (CAFE) programme revealed that more than 300,000 people die prematurely from health impact of air pollution every year in the EU27. In 2009, the Envie (Co-ordination action on IAQ & Health Effects) report published by DG Health and Consumers already linked Indoor air pollution to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. It also recognized the specific impact of ultrafine combustion particles PM2.5. According to the same report, EU citizens spend 90% of their lives indoors, where outdoor air pollution infiltrates.

 This recent development reinforces the importance to take measures at EU level to improve the quality of the indoor air in order to ensure an adequate level of prevention of air pollution related diseases. Ventilation rates and air filtration are part of the solution to create healthy and energy efficient indoor environments. They have to be considered in buildings in order to create a sustainable move towards the goal of healthy energy efficiency. The improvement of the energy efficiency in buildings leads to increased insulation, which, with poor ventilation, could potentially compromise the health of building occupants.

Regarding the best available technologies and policies instruments, the combination of source emission reduction in building materials on one hand, with minimum requirements regarding ventilation rates associated to efficient air filtration should be part of the strategy, and precautionary measures to reduce people exposure to air pollution that infiltrates from outdoor inside our buildings. 


Air filtration is at the forefront of clean technologies, delivering energy efficient solution to help creating healthy indoor environments. In light of 2013 – year of the air, indoor air quality should be a key element of the debate. Despite of high potential benefits for health, indoor air quality is often overlooked by policymakers. We recommend the development of a framework strategy on indoor air quality in order to assess opportunities for further policy action. We suggest in parallel that minimum requirements for ventilation and filtration are integrated into relevant EU policies.

Camfil Farr is a Swedish based global corporation, specialized in energy efficient Air Filtration solutions. Since 1963 the company creates healthy and energy efficient indoor environments, helping customers to protect people, improve performance, while reducing their carbon footprint and energy costs.

Committed to sustainability, Camfil Farr runs a European roadshow campaign “Clean Air a Human Right ?”, since 2011  (

More information about Camfil Farr at


CAMFIL FARR Group Sustainability Officer



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