Mon, Nov 26, 2012 - Page 3 News List

EPA unveils new rules for managing indoor air quality

OFFICE AILMENTS:The Environmental Protection Administration said that poor air quality in offices can cause headaches, fatigue and skin problems

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has promulgated five rules and regulations under the Indoor Air Quality Management Act (室內空氣品質管理法), which came into force on Friday as the nation became only the second country in Asia to legally regulate indoor air quality.

Initially put forward on Nov. 23 last year, the Indoor Air Quality Management Act was enacted on Friday, making Taiwan the second country after South Korea to set regulations for managing indoor air quality, the EPA said.

The act is an extension of the outdoor air quality management, based on the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法), brought into public indoor spaces, the EPA said.

It said throughout a year of preparations, the administration organized several public hearings to gather opinion from various sectors on setting up five related regulations and rules. The EPA also held training programs for indoor air quality management personnel, who will play a decisive role in implementing indoor air quality maintenance and management plans.

Along with the enactment of the act, the EPA also promulgated the Indoor Air Quality Management Act Enforcement Rules, Indoor Air Quality Standards, Regulations Governing Dedicated Indoor Air Quality Management Personnel, Air Quality Analysis Management Regulations and the determination that describe violations to the act.

According to data provided on the EPA’s Web site, people in Taiwan spend about 80 to 90 percent of their time indoors. However, given the proliferation of air conditioning systems in homes and office spaces in the past two or three decades, the problem of “sick building syndrome” has occurred.

The EPA quoted the WHO definition of the syndrome as “an excess of work-related irritations of the skin and mucous membranes and other symptoms, including headache, fatigue and difficulty concentrating, reported by workers in office buildings,” and added that because Taiwan’s climate is often hot and humid — making it easy for mold or germs to grow — the routine cleaning of air conditioning systems is especially important.

In addition, the EPA said that indoor air quality is especially important for children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with chronic diseases, because they spend most of their time indoors. A WHO report also showed that children are more easily affected by poor indoor air quality than adults. Of the about 100,000 people who die of asthma each year globally, about 35 percent are children, according to the WHO report.

The EPA’s Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Bureau said although the act has already taken effect, the actual implementation would take place in stages. The first phase is set to focus on about 500 public places, including larger medical facilities, elderly care centers, central governmental agencies and transportation stations.

The air pollutants under regulation include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, it added.

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