European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP), Chemical Assessment and Testing Unit, Via Fermi 1, 21027, Ispra (VA), Italy; Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Chemical Engineering, University Campus, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece.
This paper summarizes recent data on the occurrence of major organic compounds (benzene, toluene, xylenes, styrene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, naphthalene, limonene, α-pinene and ammonia, classified by the European Commission's INDEX strategy report as the priority pollutants to be regulated) and evaluates accordingly cancer and non-cancer risks posed by indoor exposure in dwellings and public buildings in European Union (EU) countries. The review process indicated that significant differences in indoor air quality exist within and among the countries where data were available, indicating corresponding differences in sources and emission strength of airborne chemicals, identified or not. Conservative exposure limits were not exceeded for non-carcinogenic effects, except for formaldehyde; for carcinogenic agents the estimated risks were up to three orders of magnitude higher than the one (10(-6)) proposed as acceptable by risk management bodies. However, the risk assessment evaluation process faces crucial difficulties, either due to the relative paucity of indoor air quality measurements in many EU countries, or by the lack of sampling consistency in the already existing studies, indicating the need for additional measurements of indoor air quality following a harmonized sampling and analytical protocol. Additionally, uncertainties embodied in the cancer potency factors and exposure limit values impose further difficulties in substance prioritization and risk management.