Public/Global Health

Report: ‘Green’ buildings could harm your health

The push to make buildings more energy efficient could have negative health effects, according to a report issued Tuesday. 

The Institute of Medicine report warns that the effort to counter climate change has spurred a shift to untested new materials and building retrofits that could limit and alter the air flow inside buildings. It said this may concentrate indoor pollutants such as chemical emissions and tobacco smoke. 

Indoor dampness, poor ventilation, excessive temperatures, and emissions from building materials and equipment such as back-up power generators also can all contribute to health problems, 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 a statement from John Spengler, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “Experience suggests that some of the effects could be negative.”

The report also says climate change may directly affect the quality of indoor air. It calls on environment regulators to coordinate with other groups to ensure that public health concerns are considered when revising and adopting building codes and ventilation standards.

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