Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017 03 19;14(3). Epub 2017 Mar 19.
Institute of Environmental Health, Center for Public Health, Medical University Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
Passive houses and other highly energy-efficient buildings need mechanical ventilation. However, ventilation systems in such houses are regarded with a certain degree of skepticism by parts of the public due to alleged negative health effects. Within a quasi-experimental field study, we investigated if occupants of two types of buildings (mechanical vs. natural ventilation) experience different health, wellbeing and housing satisfaction outcomes and if associations with indoor air quality exist. We investigated 123 modern homes (test group: with mechanical ventilation; control group: naturally ventilated) built in the years 2010 to 2012 in the same geographic area and price range. Interviews of occupants based on standardized questionnaires and measurements of indoor air quality parameters were conducted twice (three months after moving in and one year later). In total, 575 interviews were performed (respondents' mean age 37.9 ± 9 years in the test group, 37.7 ± 9 years in the control group). Occupants of the test group rated their overall health status and that of their children not significantly higher than occupants of the control group at both time points. Adult occupants of the test group reported dry eyes statistically significantly more frequently compared to the control group (19.4% vs. 12.5%). Inhabitants of energy-efficient, mechanically ventilated homes rated the quality of indoor air and climate significantly higher. Self-reported health improved more frequently in the mechanically ventilated new homes ( = 0.005). Almost no other significant differences between housing types and measuring time points were observed concerning health and wellbeing or housing satisfaction. Associations between vegetative symptoms (dizziness, nausea, headaches) and formaldehyde concentrations as well as between CO₂ levels and perceived stale air were observed. However, both associations were independent of the type of ventilation. In summary, occupants of the mechanically ventilated homes rated their health status slightly higher and their health improved significantly more frequently than in occupants of the control group. As humidity in homes with mechanical ventilation was lower, it seems plausible that the inhabitants reported dry eyes more frequently.