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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Healthy Buildings, Healthy People - A Vision for the 21st Century

Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.

A PDF cover of the report: Healthy Buildings, Healthy People: A Vision for the 21st Century

"Healthy Buildings, Healthy People: A Vision for the 21st Century"

All across our Nation, people live, work, and learn in healthy indoor environments. The environments within our buildings help us reach our full potential for good health and productivity. No one is excluded: we create healthy buildings at every income level and help all our children grow up to be healthy adults. We understand the importance of healthy indoor environments, create a demand for them, and expect them as something that everyone deserves. By choosing designs, ventilation systems, materials, and products wisely, we are able to create healthy buildings while substantially reducing energy use, cutting material costs, and raising productivity. The Nation’s success in improving human health indoors serves as a model for better building design and construction, rehabilitation and maintenance, and product development around the world.

Healthy Buildings, Healthy People: A Vision for the 21st Century addresses the future of indoor environmental quality. In preparing Healthy Buildings, Healthy People, EPA sought the advice of many, both within the Agency and outside, to develop the vision, goals, guiding principles, and potential actions presented in the report. Healthy Buildings, Healthy People lays out a blueprint by which agencies and individuals across the country, and around the world, can focus their efforts towards improvements in the indoor environment and health.

The importance of the indoor environment to human health has been highlighted in numerous environmental risk reports, including the 1997 report of the President and Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management. On average, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, where pollutant levels are often higher than those outside. Indoor pollution is estimated to cause thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year.& In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have experienced elevated blood lead levels resulting from their exposure to indoor pollutants.

The report challenges all of us to work together to improve the quality of our environment. It can also serve as the basis for discussion and education among professionals in:

  • public policy
  • health
  • building sciences
  • product manufacturing
  • and environmental research

The report is also a blueprint for channeling available resources. Already, EPA has undertaken program initiatives focusing on:

  • childhood asthma
  • characterizing the effect of building and consumer products for use in schools
  • creating standards of care for existing buildings
  • and designing guidance for new schools.

EPA is also integrating good indoor environmental quality (IEQ) concepts into the Energy Star® label program for commercial office buildings. Moreover, other current federal programs, while not direct outgrowths of the HBHP effort, are complementary of it. For example, at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Healthy Homes project has identified moisture and molds as a priority to be addressed in its grant process, and the Healthy People 2010 effort at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) contains several goals relating to IEQ progress in existing buildings. We challenge others, including:

  • government
  • tribes
  • the health community
  • academia
  • non-profit organizations
  • and industry

to embrace the HBHP goals and work together to invest in the actions outlined in the report. In this way, we can begin to make progress towards realizing the vision of HBHP.

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The HBHP report is the outcome of a cross-Agency effort to define a strategic vision and potential actions for improving the quality of our indoor environment and was jointly led by the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) and the now Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) with substantial involvement from the Office of Research and Development (ORD). As part of this effort, we sought the advice of many outside experts and visionaries.

During this collaborative process, we learned a great deal from our stakeholders. For example, we need to further understand indoor sources of pollutants and their health effects, integrate building design and maintenance, encourage federal buildings to be "model" indoor environments, support the development of new product technologies, and educate the public. Also, we need to work closely with other federal agencies; state, local and tribal governments; health and community organizations; and industry and other private groups to improve the Nation's health.

Based on stakeholder and cross-Agency input, EPA issued a draft report in March 2000 containing a vision, goals, guiding principles, and potential actions to improve human health indoors. The draft report was available on EPA's web site and was sent to over 300 stakeholders representing the public, environmental and health interests, academia, federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, non-profit organizations, trade associations, and industry. The public was asked to submit comments by May 31, 2000. This comment period was extended to June 30, 2000 at the request of several commentors. We received comments from over 40 individuals and organizations; many of them have been incorporated into the final report, or have been addressed in Appendix C.

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The draft HBHP report was positively received, and many indicated that the document was a significant step in addressing an important, but often overlooked, public health issue. Although there were a number of specific suggestions for changes to the draft report, nearly all commentors felt the report was comprehensive, and that the vision and goals captured the central themes and needs of the issue. Several indicated that the potential actions contained in the draft report were strategic, and that, when implemented, would be helpful in addressing the quality of our indoor environment. A summary of the comments is contained in Appendix C.

While many of the comments we received were incorporated, the basic structure of the draft report has been maintained in the final HBHP report. Chapter 1 focuses on why human health indoors deserves the scrutiny, concern, and action of policy makers. These reasons are primarily health-related. Health risks associated with indoor environments includes asthma, cancer, and reproductive and developmental effects. However, significant gaps still exist in the current state of knowledge about indoor environmental risks and exposures. We also believe that a particular emphasis must be placed on children's health. Chapter 2 presents a vision statement and outlines goals, broad strategies, and guiding principles to achieve success in every sector of our society over the next 25 to 50 years. In short, our objective is to realize major human health gains over the next 50 years by upgrading indoor environments. Five goals or strategies have been set to accomplish this objective:

  1. achieve major health gains and improve professional education;
  2. foster a revolution in the design of new and renovated buildings;
  3. stimulate nationwide action to enhance health in existing structures;
  4. create and use innovative products, materials, and technologies; and
  5. promote health-conscious individual behavior and consumer awareness.

In addition to providing information on actions and strategies that can be taken to protect people indoors, EPA's vision acknowledges the important role played by individuals in protecting their own health and the health of those around them. Chapter 3 lays out potential actions that EPA or others may pursue.

Appendix A provides an overview of current indoor environmental program priorities in various offices within EPA. Appendix B examines the roles of the Agency's partners in indoor environmental protection, including federal, state, local and tribal organizations, as well as stakeholders in the private sector. Appendix C provides a summary of the comments on the draft report and how the comments can be accessed through our docket.

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EPA wants to thank the many stakeholders who gave of their valuable time to participate in several workshops to create the vision and brainstorm the action plan, or to provide thoughtful comments on the draft document. During this collaborative process, we learned a great deal from stakeholders. For example, we need to:

  • further understand indoor sources of pollutants and their health effects
  • integrate building design and maintenance
  • encourage federal buildings to be "model" indoor environments
  • support the development of new product technologies
  • and educate the public.

Also, federal agencies; state, local and tribal governments; health and community organizations; and industry and other private groups need to work together closely to improve the Nation’s health. We hope that Healthy Buildings, Healthy Peoplewill be instrumental in this process.

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