US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Research Funding Aims to Improve Understanding of Climate Change Impacts on Indoor Air Quality

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BOSTON -- Harvard College is one of only nine institutions that will share nearly $8 million from the US Environmental Protection Agency to study how climate change affects indoor air quality and the resulting health effects.

The grant to Harvard will fund research looking at two cities in particular, Boston and Atlanta, to study global warmth’s effects on indoor air quality and health. The project is called “Assessing the Potential Impact of Global Warming on Indoor Air Quality and Human Health at Two US Cities: Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA” and the grant is for $999,948.

“This research will help us better understand the effects of climate change on indoor air quality,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Learning how air quality, climate, and energy interact in an indoor environment will help us design buildings that better protect people’s health.”

“The indoor air quality and health program at Harvard’s School of Public Health was initiated almost 40 years ago and was early in its understanding of the importance of the indoor environment,” said Petros Koutrakis, principal investigator and professor of environmental science. “Until then most of the air quality policies and research programs had focused on outdoor air. We are very excited about the opportunity to investigate the potential impact of climate change on the indoor environment where we spend over 85 percent of our time.”

Harvard researchers chose Boston and Atlanta in order to use indoor and outdoor air pollution data collected in two US cities with different climate conditions.

By understanding how climate impacts the quality of indoor air, this research can be used to help avoid the potential harm of climate change and support a healthy indoor environment. Americans spend the majority of their time indoors and the impacts from a variety of indoor environmental pollutants and sources of pollution, including radon, mold and moisture, secondhand smoke, indoor wood smoke, and environmental asthma triggers are well documented. The connection between climate change and indoor air quality, however, is not well understood. Poor indoor environmental quality creates health problems and climate change may worsen existing indoor environmental problems and introduce new ones.

Climate change has the potential to affect human health in indoor environments directly through a number of variables. Some of these include changes in temperature extremes, changes in infiltration and ventilation, changes in outdoor and indoor allergen levels, pesticide use, and extreme weather. These changes are especially significant for vulnerable populations including children, those with certain medical conditions, and older people.

Other institutions receiving funding under this grant program includes:

  • University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colo.
  • Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fl.
  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Ill.
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Miss.
  • Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.
  • Portland State University, Portland, Ore.
  • University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.

To address climate change, on Aug. 4 President Obama and EPA announced the final Clean Power Plan. This rule sets aggressive but attainable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across the US by 2030. More information on the Clean Power Plan is at: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

More information on EPA’s indoor air research: www.epa.gov/iaq/climatereadiness/index.html

More information on EPA research grants: http://epa.gov/ncer/

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