Summary of human responses to ventilation

Publication Type

Journal Article



The effects of ventilation on indoor air quality and health is a complex issue. It is known that ventilation is necessary to remove indoor generated pollutants from indoor air or dilute their concentration to acceptable levels. But, as the limit values of all pollutants are not known, the exact determination of required ventilation rates based on pollutant concentrations and associated risks is seldom possible. The selection of ventilation rates has to be based also on epidemiological research (e.g. Seppänen et al., 1999), laboratory and field experiments (e.g. CEN 1996, Wargocki et al., 2002a) and experience (e.g. ECA 2003).Ventilation may also have harmful effects on indoor air quality and climate if not properly designed, installed, maintained and operated as summarised by Seppänen (2003). Ventilation may bring indoors harmful substances that deteriorate the indoor environment. Ventilation also affects air and moisture flow through the the building envelope and may lead to moisture problems that deteriorate the structures of the building. Ventilation changes the pressure differences over the structures of building and may cause or prevent the infiltration of pollutants from structures or adjacent spaces. Ventilation is also in many cases used to control the thermal environment or humidity in buildings. Ventilation can be implemented with various methods which may also affect health (e.g. Seppänen and Fisk, 2002, Wargocki et al., 2002a). In non residential buildings and hot climates, ventilation is often integrated with air-conditioning which makes the operation of ventilation system more complex. As ventilation is used for many purposes its health effects are also various and complex. This paper summarises the current knowledge on positive and negative effects of ventilation on health and other human responses. The focus of the paper is on office-type working environment and residential buildings. In the industrial premises the problems of air quality are usually more complex and case specific. They are subject to occupational safety legislation and not discussed here.


Indoor Air (Supplement 7)



Year of Publication



Research Areas