Indoor Air Pollution

Federal Efforts Are Not Effectively Addressing a Growing Problem Gao ID: RCED-92-8 October 15, 1991

With the increased emphasis on energy conservation in the 1970s, and the identification of radon and asbestos as causing serious health problems, public concern about indoor air pollution has risen. Elevated levels of indoor pollutants--like second-hand tobacco smoke, formaldehyde used in pressed wood products, molds in ventilation systems, and paint strippers and other solvents containing methylene chloride--can cause headaches, fatigue, lung diseases, and even cancer. In 1986 Congress passed legislation directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and indoor air research program, disseminate the results of the research, establish an advisory committee comprised of federal agencies to help EPA carry out the program, and report to Congress on federal indoor air activities. This report discusses EPA's indoor air pollution efforts and funding, the indoor air pollution efforts of seven other federal agencies, and the efforts of eight states with active indoor air programs.

GAO found that: (1) in implementing a provision of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), EPA issued a report to Congress in 1989 that described four courses of action directed at research and two at developing guidelines and disseminating information on actions that can be taken to reduce indoor air pollution; (2) since 1986, EPA has increased the funds allocated to indoor air pollution, but funding levels are not commensurate with the high health and environmental risks of such pollution; (3) although the interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality (CIAQ) was established under SARA to address indoor air issues, there has been limited commitment from the other agencies; (4) since CIAQ lacks a clear charter that defines the roles and responsibilities of other federal agencies and how the agencies will work together to address indoor air issues, some indoor air activities are not being accomplished; (5) many of the eight states with active programs concentrate on mitigating indoor air pollution through increased ventilation; and (6) EPA recognizes the need for research directed toward identifying additional sources and materials that emit harmful indoor air pollutants and developing control strategies for biological pollutants, such as molds, bacteria, and dust mites, but the lack of funds may retard these efforts.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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