New study finds green building trend helps improve people's health
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“Green building” helps improve health of people, finds new study

10:48 AM, 19th August 2014
New study finds green building trend  helps improve people's health
Green housing traits such as better ventilation and integrated pest management can dramatically improve residents’ health.

WASHINGTON DC, US: The “green building” trend is often associated with helping the environment by using eco-friendly materials and energy-saving techniques, but these practices are designed to improve people’s health, too. Now scientists are reporting evidence that they can indeed help people feel better, including those living in low-income housing. Published in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, the study found that certain health problems of public housing residents who moved into green buildings noticeably improved.

Researcher Gary Adamkiewicz, Meryl Colton and colleagues noted that indoor air quality is an important predictor of health, especially among low-income populations. Adults in the US spend most of their time indoors - 65 per cent of their time is spent in their homes. But indoor air pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, tobacco smoke and other compounds can exacerbate respiratory problems such as asthma or even lead to cancer. In low-income communities, poorly maintained housing and locations close to industrial zones can worsen indoor air quality. Green housing, which is designed to be environmentally friendly, is also meant to improve inside air. But few studies have measured what the green building standards mean for people’s health. Adamkiewicz’s team wanted to find out.

A chance to do so came up in 2011. As part of its efforts to improve housing conditions for residents across the city, the Boston Housing Authority started redeveloping several buildings using green design features. These include switching from gas to electric stoves and prohibiting indoor smoking. In these buildings, the researchers found significantly lower levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and nicotine than in older buildings. Residents in green homes reported 47 per cent fewer “sick building syndrome” symptoms, including headaches and itchy or burning eyes that are commonly linked to indoor air pollution. “This work builds on more than 10 years of work in public housing and highlights an important opportunity to improve health in low-income communities on a large scale,” said researchers.

 

© American Chemical Society News

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