My Summarized Version of the 2010 EPA Report on Climate Change
Hyperthermia is already the leading cause of weather related death in the United States (MMWR 2006). As temperatures in some areas of the country increase, hyperthermia related deaths will also increase particularly in individuals of low socioeconomic status who lack finances to cool their homes. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic medical conditions will also be at higher risk. In addition to hyperthermia, increasing indoor air temperatures typically increases the emissions rates of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from building materials, furnishings, carpeting, personal care products, cleaning and deodorizing products, etc. as well as the interactions between indoor pollutants.
Changes in Built Environment
The characteristics of the built environment play a major role in determining indoor air quality. These factors include insulation, HVAC type, air exchange rates, building materials, building type, and numerous other factors. The majority of the world’s population now resides in cities and the rate of growth of cities is expected to outpace the rate of growth of less urban areas (United Nations 2010). The influx of people into cities as well as the continued build-up of the urban environment increases the need for higher density housing that will in turn increase the number of multi-tenant buildings. In addition to changes in the built environment in response to direct environmental pressures (e.g., increased temperature, humidity, etc.) and population driven housing demand, global climate change will exert a significant impact on indoor air quality as a result of changes in home construction practices (e.g., energy efficiency, etc.) intended to reduce our carbon footprint.
Increased Air Conditioner Usage
The Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the percentage of homes with central air conditioning has grown from 23% in 1978 to 47% in 1997 (DOE 2010). By 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that over 86% of the occupied homes in the United States had some form of air conditioning (U.S. Census Bureau 2008).
Weatherization and Energy Efficiency
EPA (2010) websites state that “Weatherization and other energy efficiency upgrades can have negative impacts on occupant health and safety if not accompanied by appropriate indoor air quality – IAQ – protections.” The EPA indicates that these negative impacts include increased carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and hundreds of volatile organic compounds, etc.