ISES-ISIAQ 2019 conference: How does extreme winter dryness conditions affect the indoor environment?

The conference took place at the Žalgiris arena on 18-22th of August (Kaunas, Lithuania). Kaunas is the second largest city of Lithuania and home of the Žalgiris basketball team. In the city, art is omnipresent, and you can see a beautiful mix of old and new structures: from castle, fortress, old wooden houses, modern church to sports arena.

Compare to previous Indoor Air conferences, it seems that more health practitioners were present. Overall, a few topics stroke my attention: climate change and its impact on indoor air, the impacts of filtrated ventilation on the indoor microbiota/environment, how countries differently handle indoor air quality issues communication with the public and the increase of SVOCs research.

Prof. Monika Petraité (Kaunas university, Lithuania) opened the conference with a talk on “communities creating health: collaborative innovation for better environment and public health”. To me her most striking comment was on the infection-causing Candida Auris fungus suspected to be an emerging pathogen after it was forced to adapt to the changing climate conditions (meaning it is now able to grow inside human body). She also mentioned scientific evidence linking air pollution with crime, mental health and bad performances and gave the example of the city of London that launched “ultra-low emission zones” to reduce air pollution problems.

One research group presented a research that stood out “confined built environments reveal surprising dynamics of their microbiome and resistome” (Medical University of Graz, Austria). The research team studied the microbiome of selected participants living in an isolated confined and controlled built environments (ICE; read spaceship). A group of six participants lived for several months in Hawaï space exploration analog and simulation (HI-SEAS IV mission). Their main finding was that skin microbes adapted to the microbiome of the ICE.

During the conference, the medical doctor Walter J. Hugntobler had a very interesting approach to indoor air quality problems (poster presentation “Mankind moved from “ecosystem nature” into “sealed building biotopes” building design and operation define their new habitat). According him, HVAC system filtrate pollutants (e.g. bacteria) size-wise, no matter their characteristics. Therefore, filtrated-air has created an indoor microbiome differently from the outdoor one, where only bacteria able to adapt to the stressful indoor environment can survive (lack of water and nutrient).

In winter, Finnish homes are warm and extremely dry (in general, 23 ℃ and relative humidity <20%). Skin is a natural protective barrier to pollutants that under extreme indoor dryness becomes at risks. Therefore, referring to the above reported findings, what would they be under the Finnish winter extreme dryness conditions? and, how climate change might affect the indoor environment?


Castagnoli Emmanuelle

Emmanuelle Castagnoli

Master of Chemistry, Aalto University