Does Climate Change Affect Indoor Pollution?

Feb 23, 2018 by

We know that buildings are responsible for a large percentage of gas emissions, but research indicates we should also be worried about the air we are breathing indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the air in most homes can be up to five times more toxic than the air outside, owing to a plethora of factors, including pressed wood furniture containing formaldehyde, harsh cleaning products and paints, etc. The pollution we create in turn harms our health to a far greater extent than we may have imagine.

In this post, we look at the matter from the other perspective, discussing how climate change can affect indoor air quality and proposing ways to make a difference.

 

How does Climate Change Affect Indoor Air Quality?

According a report by the EPA entitled  Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health, some of the main issues caused or affected by climate change include:

  • Poorer indoor air quality: caused by the mixture of reduced ventilation (to save energy), increased use of air conditioning, and potential power cuts, which could houses to rely on portable generators that burn fossil fuel and emit carbon monoxide.
  • Damp and Flooding: Flooding and increased rain can lead to greater infiltration of water into indoor spaces, which can lead to the growth mold, fungi and bacteria.
  • Infectious agents and pests: Changing weather may change the geographic range of disease vectors and lead to the use of more pesticides.
  • Thermal stress: Extreme weather conditions could result in more power cuts, which could increase human vulnerability to extreme cold, heat, etc.
  • Ventilation: Extreme weather could limit the amount of air exchange between indoor and outdoor environments. New materials and attempts to improve the weather might also result in health effects which are as yet unknown.

How can We Improve Indoor Air Quality

Change needs to be made both on a governmental and individual level to improve indoor air quality and live more sustainably. On the one hand, families can take steps to reduce their CO2 footprint and clean up the air at home by relying less on harsh chemical cleaning and personal care products, replacing toxic furniture with ones made with noble materials, and using a HEPA filter, which is highly efficient at capturing and filtering fine particulate matter.

Of course, climate change is a much larger problem. The EPA recommends that public health give greater priority to researching into the health effects of climate change, so that policy, programs and regulatory agendas can be put into place with a view to preventing ill health effects in buildings and houses.

Additional recommendations include identifying at-risk groups, refining testing standards for checking indoor air pollution, researching into useful adaptation measures, developing model standards for ventilation, and increasing public health surveillance.

 

The effects of climate change are likely to change, not only the way we interact with the world outdoors, but also our home life itself. Extreme weather will undoubtedly change the way we ventilate our homes, and provide greater challenges in terms of controlling our indoor temperature, keeping mold and fungi at bay, and dealing with problems such as infectious agents and pests. To improve the state of our future health, big changes need to be made to policy and research, to enable us to implement important preventive measures.

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