Photo by: Flickr user Justin Lynham, CC BY-NC 2.0

The air we breathe in our homes and offices can have a major impact on our overall health.

 

What Can Happen: Materials like fiberboard, foam insulation, carpets, paint, and other construction items can emit dangerous fumes called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can include chemicals like formaldehyde, which is known to cause respiratory issues and even cancer. They can also emit tiny particulate matter and liquid droplets that further inflame the lungs. Other particulates can be created by heating, cooking, and smoking, and can remain trapped indoors. 

Why It Matters: There’s a lot of research on how climate change may affect public health, but its effects on indoor environments isn’t as well studied. As our climate changes, buildings that were designed to operate under the “old” climate conditions may not function well under “new” conditions—causing health problems for those who live, work, study, or play in them.

Climate Connection: Rising temperatures from climate change affects outdoor pollutants, creating excess smog and ozone that can find its way indoors. When combined with pollutants generated by construction and cleaning supplies, people living and working inside can experience worse air quality than people just outside their doors. Even some green buildings designed to fight climate change can also have a negative impact on indoor air because they’re built to be airtight and efficient, effectively sealing in indoor pollutants.

Resources:

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Dr. Aaron Bernstein

Aaron Bernstein MD, MPH

Aaron examines the human health effects of global environmental changes with the aim of promoting a deeper understanding of these subjects among students, educators, policy makers, and the public.

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