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The position of WHO

WHOLogoThe problem of significance of the quality of indoor air as the threat for public health has been raised by WHO many times. That topic was discussed extensively among others in the World Health Report of 2002 – Risk Analysis – Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle and in the European World Health Report of 2002.
WHO estimates that half of the world's population is exposed to the harmful effect of indoor air, and it is the cause of approx. 36% of chest infections and 22% of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
WHO has undertaken many actions in the scope of counteracting the harmful effects of pollution of indoor air. They include activities carried out globally, regionally and locally. They can be divided into three components:

  • research and assessment of the quality of indoor air – the main driving force of those actions is "Partnership for clean indoor air";
  • building the competence of Member States;
  • promoting evidence-based knowledge.
One of the tasks to which WHO is obliged is to work out objective and evidence-based recommendations and orders in the scope of health. Their objective is to indicate the possible ways of solving health problems and taking suitable actions to decision-makers, state governments and various scientific and non-governmental organizations. Also in the scope of pollution of indoor air, WHO calls for creating suitable policies. Main rules which should be taken into account when carrying out such policies include, among others, the inter-sector cooperation, transfer of responsibility onto the "creator of pollution", the right to information as well as ensuring safety.

The significance of the problem of indoor air pollution has among others been reflected in the provisions of the Declaration and Action Plan which were jointly adopted by the ministers of the environment and the ministers of health at the Conference in Budapest in 2004. Health and Environment – the Future of Our Children. Objective III of the adopted Action Plan precisely applied to air pollution:
"Purpose III (RPGIII) Clean indoor and outdoor air: Preventing and limiting respiratory diseases caused by pollution of indoor and outdoor air in such a way that all children were ensured the possibility of living in the environment with clean air. It will also contribute to the decrease of the number of asthma attacks in children."


During 15-17 May 2000 the meeting of the WHO working group took place in the Netherlands in order to present a common position presented in the document "The Right to healthy indoor air". The rules formulated by the group lead to ensuring healthy indoor air:


  1. In accordance with human right to health, each person has the right to breathe healthy indoor air.
  2. In accordance with the rule of respecting autonomy ("self-determination"), each person has the right to receive suitable information concerning the exposure to the effect of the potentially harmful factors and to receive effective control measures over at least a part of pollutants emitted in a room.
  3. In accordance with the rule of not doing harm, no pollutants in the concentration which could cause an unnecessary risk for health of the exposed user should be released into indoor air.
  4. In accordance with the rule of benevolence ("doing good"), all people, groups and organizations connected with buildings, both private, public (including government buildings), are responsible for the issued recommendations or performed works whose aim is to ensure the air quality accepted by users.
  5. In accordance with the rule of social justice, the socio-economic status of users should not influence their access to healthy indoor air, however a health condition may determine special needs of a specific group of people.
  6. In accordance with the rule of responsibility, all organizations interested in the discussed issues should determine clearly defined criteria for assessment and estimation of the quality of air in a building and its effect on people's health and on the environment.
  7. In accordance with the rule of exercising caution, where the risk of exposure to harmful indoor air occurs, the appearance of uncertainty should not be used as a reason for delaying the performance of expensive measurements serving for counteracting such an exposure.
  8. In accordance with the rule of "polluter pays", the "polluter" (the polluting party) is responsible for any harm done and/or benefit derived resulting from the exposure of other people to unhealthy indoor air. The "polluter" is also responsible for the migration of pollutants and for preventing their creation.
  9. In accordance with the rule of keeping balance, the health and problems of the environment cannot be considered separately, and ensuring healthy indoor air should not be a compromise between a global and local ecological integrity or the rights of future generations.


WHO is also conducting a number of other actions whose aim is to strengthen the cooperation and the exchange of information. The actions include keeping databases (e.g.: Global indoor air pollution database, Indoor air pollution database for China, Database of childhood acute respiratory infections in developing countries), coordinating the works of the so called Centres Cooperating with WHO in the scope of indoor air quality, and publishing the generally available books and studies.


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