Improving indoor environmental quality for public health: Impediments and policy recommendations

Felicia Wu, David Jacobs, Clifford Mitchell, David Miller, Meryl H. Karol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Background: People in modern societies spend more than 90% of their time indoors. Hence, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) has a significant impact on public health. In this article we describe health risks associated with indoor environments, illuminate barriers to overcoming these risks, and provide policy recommendations to achieve healthier indoor environments. Objectives: The weight of evidence suggests that indoor environmental contaminants pose significant public health risks, particularly among children and the poor, and the societal costs of illnesses related to indoor environments are considerable. Despite the evidence of harm to human health, poor indoor environments are generally difficult to regulate and not of sufficient concern to the general public. We discuss several reasons for this lack of concern about IEQ, focusing specifically on home environments. Discussion: Economics plays a large role both in political inaction and individual-level indifference. Because little effort has been made to quantify the value of the societal and individual costs of poor housing quality, as well as the benefits achievable by simple interventions, policymakers lack motivation to act on IEQ. Similarly, individual homeowners lack the incentive to remediate homes, as other problems may be more pressing than home environmental quality. Conclusions: Although the problem of IEQ involves multiple stakeholders and multiple levels of governance, it is possible to establish economic incentives that would set the wheels in motion for action at all levels to achieve healthy home environments. Also important are education and information dissemination on the public health risks associated with indoor environments. These recommendations are intended for all decision makers who have an influence in developing policy to improve indoor environmental quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)953-957
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Impediments
  • Indoor environmental quality (IEQ)
  • Policy recommendations
  • Public education
  • Public health risk


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