Report at a Glance
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 IOM. 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.