EPA to Study Quality of Indoor Air

Article excerpt

N.Y. Times News Service

Concerned that poor indoor air quality is adversely affecting human health and productivity, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is studying the general quality of the air in the nation's buildings.

Susan E. Womble, who is helping to coordinate the Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation project for the agency's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, said about 200 "sick" and "healthy" buildings would be examined in the next three to five years.

Researchers will try to determine what substances are present in office air, will interview building occupants and examine how building design and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems affect air quality.

The results will be used to create a computer data base that can serve as a baseline for further research. Independent researchers are also being encouraged to adopt the agency's protocols and to contribute to the data base, Womble said.

Although many studies point to poor air quality as the culprit, there is no consensus on the causes of so-called sick-building syndrome.

What scientists agree on is that many indoor air pollutants _ volatile organic compounds, man-made mineral fibers, auto emissions and residue from modern building materials, among others _ contribute to a problem that largely results from the trend toward more energy-efficient buildings, whose recirculated air retains pollutants. …

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