Linkage Projects 2020 Round 3 Announcement Banner

Setting a new standard for Indoor Air Quality

Setting a new standard for Indoor Air Quality

Primary Researcher: Professor Lidia Morawska

Institution: Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Professor Lidia Morawska is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow who conducts research into air quality and its impact on human health. Indoor air pollution and associated health impacts cost the Australian economy more than $12 billion per year, and Professor Morawska’s extraordinary dedication to her work has built a bridge from fundamental science to real-world policy and practice to provide clean air for all. 

Her interdisciplinary research, which has a focus on the science of airborne particulate matter, is conducted at the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). She is also Director of the 2022 ARC Training Centre for Advanced Building Systems Against Airborne Infection Transmission at QUT. Professor Morawska’s ARC-funded research will develop and deliver new methods for low-cost monitoring of pollutants in indoor air, real-time detection of airborne pathogens, and seeks to optimize the quality of indoor air for human health and well-being while lowering energy requirements. 

Professor Morawska has built a significant international reputation through more than 1000 journal papers, book chapters and other publications. The latest of these is an article in the top tier journal Science, which lays out the research and the arguments for standards to be set and mandated for indoor air quality in public buildings.  

“People in modern societies spend 90% of their time indoors breathing indoor air,” says Professor Morawska. “And although there are building codes in place for the construction of these spaces, there is generally nothing in place to address the ongoing operation of these buildings in respect of air quality and the levels of pollutants that people are exposed to.” 

In Australia, various government departments mandate standards for building construction. There is federal legislation that provides a regulatory framework to help reduce and eliminate the discharge of pollutants into the air, land, and water. But there is no consideration how indoor air quality is affected by atmospheric controls within buildings. 

“I was in a meeting recently with some government officials,” says Professor Morawska. “There were several people in a small room, so I placed on the table my portable CO2 monitor, which I always have in my handbag. As the meeting progressed, we could all see the CO2 count climbing, from 450 parts per million (ppm), to 600 to 800ppm, which is what we consider to be the upper acceptable threshold. Not because of the CO2 itself, but because CO2 is a simple proxy for ventilation and for airborne infection risk. As the concentration of CO2 increases above 800ppm, the risk of infection increases as along with CO2, concentration of airborne pathogens, viruses and bacteria increases as well. Reliable low-cost technologies for monitoring CO2, as well as particulate matter and CO exist and can be used for regulatory monitoring of these pollutants indoors, in public buildings.”   

The Science paper has been authored by an international and interdisciplinary cohort of experts and lays out a pathway towards indoor air quality standards that can be adopted and mandated by different national jurisdictions, and in different indoor scenarios. Professor Morawska says that the next steps are about getting individual countries to adopt these standards

Back to top