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Date:  June 7, 2011




Efforts Needed To Ensure That Climate Mitigation Initiatives Do Not Cause Or Worsen Health Problems Linked To Indoor Air Quality


AUSTIN, Texas — As alterations of weather patterns related to climate change become more common, people may face unexpected health problems resulting from both the effects of climate change on the indoor environment and the steps taken to mitigate those changes, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that climate change and the materials and methods used in building weatherization and energy-efficiency retrofits do not create new indoor problems or exacerbate existing ones, such as mold-causing dampness, secondhand smoke, and chemical emissions from building materials, said the committee that wrote the report.


Indoor dampness, poor ventilation, excessive temperatures, and emissions from building materials and equipment such as back-up power generators all can contribute to health problems.  The push to improve buildings' energy efficiency has spurred more rapid introduction of untested new materials and building retrofits that limit and alter air flow and may concentrate indoor pollutants such as chemical emissions and environmental tobacco smoke.  Government agencies and other organizations are developing and promoting protocols to evaluate emissions from furnishings, building materials, and appliances, but more needs to be done to make prevention of health problems a priority, the report says.


"America is in the midst of a large experiment in which weatherization efforts, retrofits, and other initiatives that affect air exchange between the indoor and outdoor environments are taking place and new building materials and consumer products are being introduced indoors with relatively little consideration as to how they might affect the health of occupants," said committee chair John D. Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, department of environmental health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.  "Experience suggests that some of the effects could be negative.  An upfront investment to consider the consequences of these actions before they play out and to avoid problems where they can be anticipated will yield benefits in health and in averted costs of medical care, remediation, and lost productivity."


EPA should coordinate with other groups to ensure that public health concerns are considered in the revision and adoption of building codes and standards for ventilation as well as emissions testing protocols, the report says.  The agency also should spearhead research on the impact of climate mitigation efforts on indoor environmental quality and the health and productivity of occupants.


The study was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  For more information, visit or  A committee roster follows.



Christine Stencel, Senior Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail


Additional resources:

Report in Brief

Project Website

Full Report

Pre-publication copies of Climate Change, The Indoor Environment, and Health are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

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Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice


Committee on the Effect of Climate Change on Indoor Air Quality and Public Health

John D. Spengler, Ph.D. (chair)
Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation
Harvard School of Public Health

John L. Adgate, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Colorado School of Public Health

University of Colorado

Antonio J. Busalacchi Jr., Ph.D.
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, and
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center
University of Maryland
College Park

Ginger L. Chew, Sc.D.
National Center for Environmental Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Andrew Haines, M.D., M.B.B.S.
Professor of Public Health and Primary Care
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Steven M. Holland, M.D.
Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and
Immunopathogenesis Section
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Md.


Vivian E. Loftness, M.A.
University Professor of Architecture
College of Fine Arts
School of Architecture
Carnegie Mellon University


Linda A. McCauley, Ph.D., F.A.A.N., R.N. 
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
Emory University


William W. Nazaroff, Ph.D.
Daniel Tellup Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of California


Eileen Storey, M.D., M.P.H.
Surveillance Branch Chief
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Morgantown, W.Va.


David A. Butler, Ph.D

Study Director