German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values

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The German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values (AIR) evaluates pollutants in indoor air.
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The AIR sets indoor air guide values, hygienic guide values and risk-related guide values for health-based assessment of indoor air.

Table of Contents

 

German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values (AIR)

Indoor air is a significant chemical uptake pathway. To assess indoor air quality in public and private buildings, the German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values (AIR) sets health-based guide values as well as hygienic guide values that enable a health-related assessment of substance concentrations in indoor air. The AIR also derives risk-related guide values for selected carcinogenic chemicals in indoor air. Members of the AIR are experts from federal states and federal governments in Germany who were appointed by the Working Group of the Highest State Health Authorities (AOLG). Further experts may be appointed as necessary.

The office of the AIR has been established at the German Environment Agency in Section II 1.2 "Toxicology, Health-related Environmental Monitoring".

 

Definition of 'indoor environment'

The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) defines indoor environment as:

  • dwellings with living rooms, bedrooms, hobby rooms, exercise and basement areas, kitchens and baths
  • working areas in buildings which are not subject to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (GefStoffV), e.g. offices.
  • spaces in public buildings (hospitals, schools, day care centres, sports facilities, libraries, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, and other public event venues)
  • the interior of motor vehicles and public means of transport.
 

Indoor air guide values

The average person in Central Europe today spends 90 per cent of their time indoors. We breathe anywhere between 10 and 20 m3 of air per day, depending on our age and how active we are. The indoor air we breathe can contain a variety of pollutants that can affect our health. Therefore, it is important to be able to make a health-risk assessment of indoor air quality. Indoor air guide values are derived for this purpose.

The methods applied by the AIR to derive indoor air guide values are published in various principal papers in the Federal Health Gazette (Bundesgesundheitsblatt).

The AIR derives two indoor air guide values for the purpose of health risk assessment:

Indoor air guide value I (precautionary guide value) describes the concentration of a substance in indoor air for which or below which, according to current knowledge, adverse effects on health are not expected even after a lifetime of exposure.

At values above Indoor air guide value I, however, precautionary action must be taken. Measures to minimise the concentrations of the pollutant in indoor air should also be taken. Indoor air guide value I can serve as a remediation target value.

Indoor air guide value II (hazard guide value) is an effect-related value, based on current toxicological and epidemiological knowledge of a substance’s effect threshold. It represents the concentration of a substance in indoor air at and above which immediate action is required. At concentrations above these levels, harmful effects on human health cannot be ruled out with sufficient probability. Guide value II correlates to the building codes of the federal states in Germany, which stipulate that structures must be designed to prevent hazards due to chemical, physical or biological impacts.

AIR Guide values I and II for indoor air pollutants

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Hygienic guide values for indoor air

Hygienic guide values are determined when practical experience has demonstrated simultaneous increase of the likelihood of complaints and adverse health effects with the concentrations of an indoor air pollutant, but for which the state of knowledge is lacking to derive a toxicologically based indoor air guide value only. The following hygienic guide values were established for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Hygienic guide values for indoor air

Hygienic guide values for indoor air
Hygienic guide values for indoor air
Source: Umweltbundesamt hygienic_guide_values_20210728_en.pdf

Because indoor air can contain numerous organic compounds, the former Ad hoc Working Group on Indoor Air Guide Values (IRK/AOLG) had proposed benchmarks for the evaluation of volatile organic compounds (⁠VOC⁠) in relation to indoor air quality by applying TVOC values (Total Volatile Organic Compounds). However, the toxicologically derived indoor air guide values take precedence over the TVOC scheme.

Indoor air guide values for TVOC in indoor air

Indoor air guide values for TVOC in indoor air
Indoor air guide values for TVOC in indoor air
Source: Umweltbundesamt tvoc_level_20210728_en.pdf
 

Risk-related guide values for carcinogenic substances in indoor air

Indoor air measurement data on the presence of a chemical in indoor air is required for a health assessment of cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). This data is recorded as a 95th percentile (reference value) and reflects what is called the background concentration of the substance in indoor air. Toxicological and/or epidemiological data on the exposure-risk relationship are also required. It is important to know the underlying effect mechanism of the carcinogenic substance. If an exposure-risk relationship study can be identified, the indoor air concentration of the carcinogen that is associated with a theoretical cancer risk of 10-6 after lifetime exposure must be identified. The concentration corresponds to one case of disease per 1,000,000 people based on lifelong exposure to the calculated concentration of the pollutant. This calculated concentration is compared with the current reference value from the available indoor measurement data. If the concentration derived from the exposure-risk relationship is above the current reference value, it is used as the risk-related guide value for the assessment. If the concentration of the reference value is linked to a theoretical risk higher than 10-6, then a provisional risk-related guide value is set based on the indoor air reference value.

Risk-related guide values for indoor air

Risk-related guide values for indoor air
Risk-related guide values for indoor air
Source: Umweltbundesamt risk-related_guide_values_20210728_en.pdf
 

Minutes of AIR meetings

The minutes of AIR meetings are published only in German on the UBA website. Please note that the finalised minutes of a meeting are only approved at the subsequent meeting of the AIR.

Publications of the AIR

  • Guide values for indoor air: acetone (in German)

    German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values, Bundesgesundheitsbl 64: 1184-1192 (2021).

    Richtwerte für Aceton in der Innenraumluft

  • Guide values for indoor air: benzo[α]pyrene (in German)

    German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values, Bundesgesundheitsbl 64:1036–1046 (2021)

    Guide values for indoor air: benzo[α]pyrene (in German)

  • Guide values for indoor air: methyl methacrylate (in German)

    German Committee on Indoor Air Guide Values, Bundesgesundheitsbl 64: 126-135 (2021)

    Guide values for indoor air: methyl methacrylate (in German)

  • Guide values for indoor air: benzothiazole (in German)

    German Commission on Indoor Guide Values, Bundesgesundheitsbl 63: 1304-1310 (2020) DOI 10.1007/s00103-020-03193-w

    Guide values for indoor air: benzothiazole (in German)

  • Guide values for indoor air: First update of the German risk assessment procedure (basic scheme)

    Communication from the Ad-hoc Working Group on Indoor Guide Values of the Indoor Air Hygiene Commission and the States´ Supreme Health Authorities; Bundesgesundheitsblatt 55(2): 279-290 (2012)

    Guide values for indoor air: First update of the German risk assessment procedure

  • Guide values for indoor air: basic scheme

    Ad-hoc working group of members of the Federal Environment Agency's Indoor Air Hygiene Commission (IRK) and the AGLMB Committee for Environmental Hygiene, Bundesgesundheitsblatt 39 (1996), pp. 422-425.

  • Guide values for indoor air: toluene

    Sagunski, H.; Bundesgesundheitsblatt 39 (1996), pp. 416-42.

  • Guide values for indoor air: dichloromethane

    Witten, J., H. Sagunski und B. Wildeboer; Bundesgesundheitsblatt 40 (1997), pp. 278-284

  • Guide values for indoor air: carbon monoxide

    Englert, N.; Bundesgesundheitsblatt 40 (1997), pp. 425-428

  • Guide values for indoor air: pentacholorophenol

    Ad-hoc working group of members of the Federal Environment Agency's Indoor Air Hygiene Commission (IRK) and the AGLMB Committee for Environmental Hygiene. Bundesgesundheitsblatt 40 (1997), pp. 234-236.

  • Guide values for indoor air: nitrogen dioxide

    Englert, N.; Bundesgesundheitsblatt 41 (1998), pp. 9-12.

  • Guide values for indoor air: styrene

    Sagunski, H.:Bundesgesundheitsblatt 41 (1998), pp. 392-421.

  • Guide values for indoor air: mercury

    Link, B.: Bundesgesundheitsblatt 42 (1999), pp. 168-174.

  • Guide values for indoor air quality: The evaluation of indoor air quality by means of the sum of volatile organic compounds (TVOC value )

    Seifert, B.:Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 42 (1999), pp. 270-278.

  • Guide values for indoor air: diisocyanates

    Wolf, T. and H. Stirn: Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 43 (2000), pp. 505-512.

  • Guide values for indoor air: tris-(2-chloroethyl)phosphate

    Sagunski, H. and E. Rosskamp: Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 45 (2002), pp. 300-306.

  • Guide values for indoor air: bicyclic terpenes - guiding substance: α-pinenes

    Sagunski, H. and B. Heinzow: Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 46 (2003), pp. 346-352.

  • Guide values for indoor air: naphthalene

    Sagunski, H. and W. Heger: Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 47 (2004), pp. 705-712.

  • Guide values for indoor air: dearomatized hydrocarbon solvents (C9 -C14)

    Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 48 (2005), pp. 803-813.