Housing Environmental Aspects Linked To Health with Ventilation (HEALTH-V)

Project Funders: University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) (subgrant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Project Partners: UIC, University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign (UIUC), and weatherization agencies in Indiana and Cook County, Illinois

Project Contact: David E. Jacobs, djacobs@nchh.org

What we studied: The effect of two different ventilation standards (standards with and without mechanical ventilation) on indoor air quality and occupant health.

What we found: The homes with mechanic ventilation had lower levels of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide (CO2), humidity, and radon in living areas than homes without it. Parents reported health improvements for children in both study groups.

Why it matters: Weatherization can improve energy conservation but can also adversely affect health if ventilation is not adequate. This study shows that using ventilation standards issued by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) improves indoor air quality and self‐reported health. It also shows significantly better outcomes in homes with mechanical ventilation. The U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program currently requires its energy-efficiency providers to comply with the most recent ASHRAE ventilation standard. Other energy-efficiency and home repair programs should comply with the latest ASHRAE standard to improve health and indoor air quality.

Project Description: The HEALTH-V (Housing Environmental Aspects Linked To Health with Ventilation) project studied two different ventilation standards established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) that are commonly used in weatherization and other housing repair programs. One standard was set in 1989 and the other in 2010. The 1989 standard typically does not require mechanical ventilation, but the new one usually does. The average air flow rate was nearly twice as high in the ASHRAE 62.2-2010 group (79 vs. 39 cubic feet per minute). For the ASHRAE 62.2-2010 group, formaldehyde, other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon dioxide (CO2) were all significantly reduced, and first-floor radon was marginally lower; but for the 62-1989 group, only formaldehyde decreased. Humidity in the ASHRAE 62.2-2010 group was nearly twice as low as the ASHRAE 62-1989 group using the moisture balance metric, which can indicate a mold problem. Radon was higher in the basement but lower on the first floor. Children in each group had fewer headaches, eczema, and skin allergies after weatherization, and adults saw improvements in psychological distress.

Francisco, P. W., Jacobs, D. E., Targos, L., Dixon, S. L., Breysse, J., Rose, W., & Cali, S. (2017, March). Ventilation, indoor air quality, and health in homes undergoing weatherization. Indoor Air, 27(2), 463-477.

Main, D. (2016, June 2). Your office air is killing youNewsweek.