Author: Ruben Gonzalez Colom, PhD (Biomedical Data Scientist, IDIBAPS)

Understanding how the air quality inside buildings affects people’s respiratory health is essential. When we talk about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), we refer to the cleanliness and safety of the air we breathe indoors, like in our homes or workplaces.

Research shows that poor IAQ can worsen respiratory symptoms, especially in people who already have lung problems. This can lead to various health issues, including difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, and even more frequent visits to the doctor or hospital. In severe cases, it can even lead to death.

To better understand how indoor air affects respiratory health, we are conducting long-term studies to monitor air quality in people’s homes over time. We are particularly interested in certain pollutants and allergens found indoors, like dust, mold, or chemicals from cleaning products. These substances can cause inflammation in the respiratory system, making breathing harder and affecting the heart’s rhythm.

By studying indoor air quality and its effects on people’s health, we hope to uncover ways to prevent respiratory problems and improve the lives of those affected. This could involve developing better ventilation systems, using safer cleaning products, or recommending lifestyle changes to reduce exposure to harmful substances indoors.

Overall, understanding and improving indoor air quality is crucial for everyone’s health, especially for those with respiratory conditions. By working together to address this issue, we can create safer and healthier indoor environments for all.

The Barcelona pilot study focuses on two main objectives: investigating the correlation between indoor air quality (IAQ) and health status, and characterising IAQ in various indoor settings. These include the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona (HCB), a city market (Ninot), and a metro station (Clinic).


Mercat del Ninot. Barcelona


In the hospital scenario, initiated in June 2023, IAQ monitoring involves strategically installing 18 sensors across five different areas. Additionally, sampling for various chemical and biological pollutants is conducted to understand their potential health implications.


Hospital Clínic de Barcelona


The study also involves monitoring a cohort of 200 high-risk chronic respiratory patients for at least two years, with approximately 40% of the cohort recruited thus far, and is expected to be concluded during February-March. The pilot also conducts specific studies to enhance management of exacerbations, including enhanced lung function testing, continuous IAQ monitoring, digital support, and predictive modeling.

Furthermore, an exhaustive one-year follow-up of 10 severe asthma patients is conducted to further analyze IAQ and exacerbations, incorporating a more extensive medical follow-up and portable monitoring tools. Due to the exposed delays, it is essential to note that the sampling/monitoring campaign has yet to be initiated in this scenario which is expected to begin in March 2024.


Hospital Clínic Subway station


The next plans include initiating sampling and monitoring activities in the metro station and the market, starting from March 2024.