Air pollution at work and health risks: VIEPI study

ENEA disseminated and published the results of a new scientific investigation under our project ‘VIEPI – Integrated assessment of indoor particulate exposure’ which studies the correlations between the concentrations of atmospheric particles and the microclimatic conditions indoors, to understand the implications of occupational exposures”

Objective of the study initiated byInail with ENEA, Sapienza University of Rome, University of Cagliari and Cnr: assess health effects atmospheric particulate levels in relation to the microclimate in different indoor work environments.

Pollutants at work: what does it depend on?

Concentration of pollutants it can vary over time and depend not only on the nature of the sources but also ventilation, habits and activities carried out by the occupants themselves. In addition, exposure is a key aspect in assessing the effects of air pollution. In industrialized countries, and particularly in urban areas, people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, i.e. at home, in the office, in the car and in places where they work. education such as schools and universities.

Atmospheric particles in the indoor environment: the VIEPI study

“In recent years, the need has arisen to deepen knowledge on indoor pollution, particularly in the face of increasing scientific evidence on the harmful effects on human health.

And for this reason, we have decided to further study this aspect of pollution by starting a new collaboration, which includes an integrated study of worker exposure to airborne particles in indoor environmentswith the numerical-experimental simulation of fluid dynamics and concentration fieldson a real scale and in the laboratory, and the chemical, morphological and toxicological characterization of fine and ultrafine particles”.

The Inail researcher Armando Pelliccioniscientific coordinator of the VIEPI project

VIEPI project: the participants

The ‘VIEPI’ project involves the following Operational Units:

  • Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (Sapienza University of Rome, Institutional Recipient, Scientific Director Prof. Paolo Monti),
  • Department of Environmental Civil Engineering and Architecture (University of Cagliari, scientific director Prof. Giorgio Querzoli),
  • Cnr – Institute of Atmospheric Pollution (IIA, scientific director Dr. Cinzia Perrino),
  • Cnr – Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences (ISAC, scientific director Dr. Francesca Costabile)
  • ENEA – Department of Sustainability of Productive and Territorial Systems (PTSD, scientific director Dr. Maria Giuseppa Grollino).

Exposure to ultrafine particles: what the VIEPI scientific investigation analyzes

“For the VIEPI project, the indoor pollutant we are going to study is the ultrafine particulate matter, which is the dimensional fraction that deserves the most attention due to its ability to penetrate the human body affecting various organs, such as the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys and brain. These particles, made up of a complex cocktail of chemical components, can exert their action target organ toxicant and cause a series of important pathologies because they generate oxidative stress, a weakening of the immune defenses and an increase in the inflammation of the respiratory tract and the organism in general”, underlines the ENEA researcher.

Furthermore, it has recently been highlighted as also the presence and movement of individuals is an important source of indoor fine particles, which is added to the other internal sources and to the infiltrations from the outside, in particular from automobile traffic. Individuals are therefore both a source and a receiver of the pollution itself.

VIEPI project: laboratory analyzes on human bronchial cells

The ENEA research team is already working in the laboratory for the in vitro culture of bronchial cells healthy humans; Once ready, the cell cultures will be transferred to a university classroom, through a portable display, and will “breathe”, for a whole day, the same air of students and professors. “We will use an innovative technique in the field of in vitro environmental toxicology which allows direct contact of the cellular system with the ambient air. In this way, we will be able to study the potential toxicity of environmental pollutants under real human exposure conditions and not only in the laboratory”, explains Dr. Grollino.

VIEPI project: ENEA analyzes on human bronchial cells

Next, the bronchial cells will return to the laboratory, where the ENEA research team will carry out biochemical and molecular tests to analyze the toxicological response related to exposure to indoor pollution, through the evaluation of the expression of genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation and response to organic compounds. This will allow researchers to understand the potentially harmful impact of indoor pollution on healthby correlating the biological responses set up by the bronchial cells and the physico-chemical characteristics of the particulate matter.

“In addition, thanks to the creation of indoor particle concentration maps, essentially edited by Inail and by the operational units of La Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Cagliari, we will be able to identify the dynamics at the “origin of the spatial distribution of concentrations in confined work environments. This will allow us to provide useful elements for drafting guidelines to identify the optimal location of workstations and potentially polluting instrumentation”, concludes the ENEA researcher.

To find out more about indoor pollution at work

InSic offers the EPC publisher’s Ebook

Indoor pollution