Reflections on the history of indoor air science, focusing on the last 50 years

Indoor Air. 2017 Jul;27(4):708-724. doi: 10.1111/ina.12368. Epub 2017 Feb 27.


The scientific articles and Indoor Air conference publications of the indoor air sciences (IAS) during the last 50 years are summarized. In total 7524 presentations, from 79 countries, have been made at Indoor Air conferences held between 1978 (49 presentations) and 2014 (1049 presentations). In the Web of Science, 26 992 articles on indoor air research (with the word "indoor" as a search term) have been found (as of 1 Jan 2016) of which 70% were published during the last 10 years. The modern scientific history started in the 1970s with a question: "did indoor air pose a threat to health as did outdoor air?" Soon it was recognized that indoor air is more important, from a health point of view, than outdoor air. Topics of concern were first radon, environmental tobacco smoke, and lung cancer, followed by volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde and sick building syndrome, house dust-mites, asthma and allergies, Legionnaires disease, and other airborne infections. Later emerged dampness/mold-associated allergies and today's concern with "modern exposures-modern diseases." Ventilation, thermal comfort, indoor air chemistry, semi-volatile organic compounds, building simulation by computational fluid dynamics, and fine particulate matter are common topics today. From their beginning in Denmark and Sweden, then in the USA, the indoor air sciences now show increasing activity in East and Southeast Asia.

Keywords: SVOC; VOC; health; indoor air quality; radon; thermal comfort.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / history
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects
  • Formaldehyde / analysis
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Radon / adverse effects
  • Radon / analysis
  • Sick Building Syndrome
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Formaldehyde
  • Radon