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Why does indoor environment cause symptoms among some individuals and not among others?

Research project Despite extensive research about indoor air health problems, causative compounds and mechanisms are still unknown. It is known that moisture and mold increase the risk of symptoms. In addition, the problem seems to be more complex than a dose-response relationship. In this study, we therefore want to consider the individual differences in sensitivity and vulnerability and not only investigate chemical substances and other factors in the indoor environment.

The aim of this project was to combine exposure assessment and individual (psychological and physiological) factors and by using advanced analytical and statistical methods evaluate why some individuals develop BRS in certain buildings whereas other individuals within the same building do not.

Head of project

Ingrid Liljelind
Adjunct associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2015-01-01 2019-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Research area

Public health and health care science

Project description

Building related symptoms, BRS, include irritation of the mucous membranes in the airways, eyes, and skin, as well as headache, fatigue, nausea, and emotional and cognitive impact. Low levels of environmental pollutants are thought to be the cause, but individual factors such as female gender and high psychosocial stress have also been pointed out as risk factors. In this project we combine exposure assessment and individual (psychological and physiological) factors and to use advanced analytical and statistical methods. We expect to find compounds or groups of compounds associated with BRS and to get a better understanding of how individual psychosocial, physiological and chemical factors interact.

The overall project idea is to increase the understanding why some individuals develop health symptoms in certain buildings whereas others do not. Instead of only measuring VOCs and try to find a relationship between concentrations and health effects, we aim to take the individual factors (psychological and physiological) into account. By combining data on individual factors with data from new, more sensitive methods for measurement of VOCs we will be able to study indoor air health problems in a new light. The evaluation will be done with powerful multivariate statistical methods.

The starting point is the perspective of the individuals with non-specific building related health problems. These individuals will choose buildings where they do get adverse health effects and buildings where they do not and VOC measurements will be taken on both locations. Data on individual factors (e.g. stress, chemical sensitivity, inflammations etc) will be collected and this knowledge will guide us when evaluating chemical exposure and it’s relation to health effects.

When using advanced multivariate statistical data analysis with chemometric methods we can analyze and interpret such complex structures of data and tools such as PCA, OPLS-DA will be used to evaluate data. Data from this study will give us profound knowledge about important factors that will help us designing further studies.

Latest update: 2022-01-21