About the project

The SINPHONIE project, the Schools Indoor Pollution and Health: Observatory Network in Europe, is a complex research project covering the areas of health, environment, transport and climate change and aimed at improving air quality in schools and kindergartens. The project is implemented under a European Commission service contract of the DG Sanco.
Thirty-six environment and health institutions from 25 countries are participating in the SINPHONIE research project in order to implement Regional Priority Goal III (RPG3) of the Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE), which is to prevent and reduce respiratory disease due to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

The purpose of the SINPHONIE project

The SINPHONIE project is an example of the practical implementation of the EU Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010; and is an example of subregional cooperation in order to implement the revised CEHAPE RPG3 (2004, 2010).
With its special focus on schools and childcare facilities, the SINPHONIE project aims to define policy recommendations on remedial measures in the school environment.
In order to achieve this overall objective, SINPHONIE builds on knowledge acquired in the course of earlier projects (e.g. EnVIE [http://www.envie-iaq.eu] and SEARCH [www.rec.org/SEARCH/]). It aims to expand the spectrum of available information by carrying out complex research into children’s exposure to indoor air pollutants and health risks in schools. A common European database will be created using the same protocol on indoor air quality (IAQ) and other environmental parameters in schools and related health impacts throughout Europe in order to provide evidence for use in compiling guidelines to improve air quality in schools.

Why is good indoor air quality so important?

On average, people spend over 90 percent of their time in indoor environments, which means that indoor air quality (IAQ) has an enormous influence on their quality of life and health. Exposure to air contaminants that can lead to respiratory and other health-related effects is determined by indoor conditions. This refers not only to exposure time but also to the nature and concentration of pollutants (e.g. construction materials, furnishings, cleaning products etc.).

Children spend a third of their day in school and have no say over the school environment. At the same time, children are far more vulnerable than adults to the effects of air pollution.

Schools: A particularly delicate indoor environment

Children breathe a greater volume of air, relative to their body weight, than adults and their immune systems are not sufficiently mature to respond to environmental attack. Pollutant-related disturbance at school may affect children’s health, growth, opportunities and learning performance, as well as their cultural and social development. More than one in three children in Europe has bronchial asthma or allergy, and the rate of respiratory illness is increasing year by year, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and South Eastern Europe (SEE). In this context, it is crucial to assess the problem of indoor air pollution in schools.

How does SINPHONIE relate to earlier studies?

The findings of various preliminary studies on exposure to indoor air pollution in European countries provide important data for the SINPHONIE project. All data obtained to date on IAQ related to schools, homes or offices help to create a clear picture of the major sources of IAQ problems. However, the complexity of the school environment, with its huge variety of pollutant sources and the unique behaviour of the building occupants, makes it more difficult to identify IAQ problems. Another difficulty is that existing data are not comparable, as they have not been gathered using a standardised procedure.