Green Buildings are Hazardous to Your Health, Says Fair and Balanced Fox News

air leakage from report

From report: how houses have got tighter.

Joe Romm's Climate Progress is all hot and bothered about Fox News' coverage of a new report Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health, and its headline, Green Buildings Hazardous to Health? Report Cites Risks of Weatherization.. Climate Progress titles their post Fox News Labels Green Buildings Bad for Your Health -- In Fact, the Reverse is True.

In fact, I think the Fox article is, dare I say it, fair and balanced.

Fox News quotes the report:

"Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health," the report said.

To save costs and cut down on emissions, building owners typically find ways to seal off potential leaks and conserve energy. But in "weatherizing" the buildings, they also change the indoor environment.

By making buildings more airtight, building owners could increase "indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity," the report said. By adding insulation, they could trigger moisture problems.

The fact of the matter is, we have been saying this for years on TreeHugger. In America, "green" means "saves energy". But how many energy efficient homes have heat recovery ventilators? How many homeowners know how to use them? How many houses are filled with formaldehyde-leaching particle board and OSB? How many homeowners use green, non-toxic cleaners? How many avoid using phthalate-filled vinyl or fire-retardant-filled styrofoam? How many homes are designed for cross-ventilation so that you don't have it sealed up all year?

Climate Progress also points to the Hill , which quotes an author of the study:

"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."

Climate Progress consults a number of experts who actually all agree that there is a problem, but that we're on top of it. One says:

I think the ASHRAE Standard 62.1 and the LEED rating system both emphasize indoor air quality and human health as a priority. My personal opinion is that indoor environmental quality is not being sacrificed in our pursuit of greater energy efficiency.

And my personal opinion is that the vast majority of the builders and owners of tightly sealed energy efficient houses have no idea what ASHRAE Standard 62.1 is, and are not going for LEED certification. Their idea of "green" is that it saves energy, period.

I really don't know why Climate Progress has their shorts in a knot over this; in fact, I think the Fox News headline is more accurate than theirs.

More on Health and Green Building:
In Green Building, You Can't Separate Energy and Health
California Study Finds New Homes Are Toxic
Formaldehyde Added To Official List of Known Carcinogens; Now Lets Ban It In Building Materials
Big Steps In Building: Ban Formaldehyde
Polystyrene Insulation Doesn't Belong in Green Building

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