Report at a Glance
Priority Issues for Action and Recommendations
In formulating recommendations for ways to reduce the health effects caused by climate- induced indoor environmental conditions, the committee adopted a public health approach founded on three guiding principles. The overall effort, it said, should
- prioritize consideration of health effects into research, policy, programs, and regulatory agendas that address climate change and buildings;
- make prevention of adverse exposures a primary goal in designing and implementing strategies to address health effects; and
- include collection of data to be used in making better-informed decisions in the future.
The committee made a number of specific recommendations for actions to be taken by the EPA, in cooperation with other government agencies and with private-sector organizations where appropriate. These actions include:
- Initiating or expanding programs to identify populations at risk for health problems resulting from alterations in indoor environmental quality induced by climate change and implementing measures to prevent or lessen the problems.
- Developing or refining protocols and testing standards for evaluating emissions from materials, furnishings, and appliances used in buildings and promoting their use by standards-setting organizations and in the marketplace.
- Facilitating research to identify circumstances in which climate change mitigation and adaptation measures may cause or exacerbate adverse exposures.
- Facilitating the revision and adoption of building codes that are regionally appropriate with respect to climate-change projections and that promote the health and productivity of occupants.
- Developing model standards for ventilation in residential buildings and fostering updated standards for commercial buildings and schools, based on health-related criteria and aimed at providing a healthful environment under all design and operation conditions.
- Implementing a public health surveillance system that expands current ongoing surveys to gather information on how outdoor conditions, building characteristics, and indoor environmental conditions are affecting occupant health.
- Educating the public on issues of climate change, the indoor environment, and health.
- Evaluating actions taken in response to climate change-induced alterations in the indoor environment to determine whether they are enhancing occupant health and productivity in a cost-effective manner.
- Spearheading an effort across the federal government to make indoor environment and health issues an integral consideration in climate change research and action plans and, more broadly, coordinating work on the indoor environment and health.
The committee’s observations and recommendations are based on scientific evidence that clearly shows that adverse indoor environmental quality is harming people’s health. Altered climatic conditions will not necessarily introduce new risks for building occupants but may make existing indoor environmental problems more widespread and more severe and thus increase the urgency with which prevention and interventions must be pursued. Buildings that were designed to operate under the "old" climatic conditions may not function well under the "new." Considering the consequences of climate change adaptation and mitigation actions before they play out and thereby avoiding problems that can be anticipated will yield benefits in health and in avoiding costs of medical care, remediation, and lost productivity.