$4.5M Fed Study: 'Effects of Climate Change on Indoor Air

November 15, 2013 - 12:44 PM

Japan Climate Change

In this Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 photo, smoke billows from an oil refinery in Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking non-profit organizations to conduct “research to improve understanding of the effects of climate change on indoor air quality and the resulting health effects.”

The total funding for the grants, announced on Oct. 25, is $4.5 million and applicants have until Jan. 23, 2014 to submit proposals.

In a 20-page explanation and guidelines for the “funding opportunities,” the synopsis of the project states: “EPA is interested in supporting research that will explore the anticipated effects of climate change on indoor air quality directly through a variety of mechanisms, and indirectly through adaptations in building use and design.”

The background portion of the document includes a list of ways (with related-studies notations) that “climate change has the potential to affect human health in indoor environments” as follows:

Changes in pesticide use and ventilation patterns in response to changes in seasonal survival and geographic distribution of disease vectors and indoor pests. These changes may lead to increased body burden for a variety of agents, and correspondingly diverse associated health effects.

Changes in VOC (volatile organic compounds) exposures resulting from increased thermal insulation potentially associated to health endpoints that remain poorly explored.

Changes in exposure to bioaerosols and VOCs resulting from decreased ventilation and increased relative humidity, manifesting in respiratory, neurological, or other morbidity.

Increases in radon exposure resulting from reduced ventilation when combustion-free (e.g. heat-pumps) or high-efficiency combustion equipment is installed in basements.

Changes in the proportion of time spent outdoors vs. indoors, for some age groups, or in the physical intensity of activities.

The project, part of EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is closely tied to the agency’s agenda to improve “public health.” The document states that the lack of research on indoor air and climate change “poses significant challenges to the development of guidelines for adaptations that would be broadly applicable to protect public health.”

CNSNews.com asked EPA a series of questions about the $4.5 million grant funding via e-mail. The agency’s responses to those questions follow:

CNSNews.com: What is the definition of climate change as it applies to this study -- is it strictly based on the United Nation's data?

EPA: As stated in the Indoor Air and Climate Change Request for Applications (RFA), the interaction of air quality, climate and energy, and their human health impacts has been designated as a high-priority research area by the agency. The general definition for climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. This definition and additional information on climate change can be viewed at www.epa.gov/climatechange. Beyond the general meaning as used by the Agency, applicants are free to use the operational definition of climate change with the greatest merit in their own judgment when applying for Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants through RFAs.

CNSNews.com: How will the results of this project be used by the EPA, i.e. for regulatory or other purposes?

EPA: EPA-funded research allows our nation's scientist and engineers to provide critical information supporting the scientific basis for decisions on national environmental issues. For any research results or direct impacts from the STAR grants awarded under this RFA, view the annual reports that will be posted on EPA Extramural Research pages through the duration of the grants.

CNSNews.com: How is this grant funded?

EPA: Any grants awarded under this RFA will be awarded through the Agency’s Science To Achieve Results (STAR) program. Applications are evaluated on scientific merit by expert reviewers from outside the Agency.  For more information on the Peer Review process, visit www.epa.gov/ncer/peerreview.

CNSNews.com: Can you explain what is meant by "development of guidelines for adaptations that would be broadly applicable to public health?" (page 3) The Indoor Air and Climate Change RFA states "development of guidelines for adaptations that would be broadly applicable to protect public health."

EPA: To counter any effects of climate change relevant to public health, such as extreme heat episodes, or deteriorating air quality, some adaptation measures can be developed. Those verified as effective can then be compiled into guidelines by a variety of organizations with public health protection objectives. However, some adaptations (as exemplified in the text) may be more likely than others to be adopted because of geographic, demographic, or socio-economic issue.