Climate Change Mitigation in Low-Income Communities in Colorado: Home Weatherization Impacts on Respiratory Health and Indoor Air Quality during Wildfires

EPA Grant Number: R835752
Title: Climate Change Mitigation in Low-Income Communities in Colorado: Home Weatherization Impacts on Respiratory Health and Indoor Air Quality during Wildfires
Investigators: Miller, Shelly , Adgate, John L. , Root, Elisabeth , Carlton, Elizabeth
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder , Colorado School of Public Health , University of Colorado at Denver
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2017 (Extended to June 30, 2018)
Project Amount: $999,899
RFA: Indoor Air and Climate Change (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Climate Change , Air


The proposed research is designed to evaluate Colorado weatherization programs used to adapt homes in low-income communities to a changing climate against empirical evidence of respiratory health effects and measurements of indoor air quality (IAQ) and ventilation rates. Our hypotheses are that (1) the weatherization of homes tightens the building shell and reduces ventilation rates, which will be associated with adverse respiratory health effects; and (2) during large wildfires, which are increasing in number and magnitude due to climate change, the particulate levels in homes that are weatherized by tightening the building shell will be lower compared to non-weatherized homes.


To test our hypotheses, we will partner with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) weatherization program agencies for low-income residents to recruit at least 250 homes over 1.5 years. In 125 single-family homes that have had weatherization improvements and 125 single-family homes that have not been weatherized we will assess, through a combination of questionnaires, lung function testing, household walkthrough, and blower door testing the home characteristics and respiratory health of the residents. Lung function will be documented with forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) measurements. Weatherized and non-weatherized homes will be selected in neighborhood pairs and non-weatherized homes will be screened using the income-eligibility requirements of the weatherization programs. On a subset of 30 homes (15 weatherized, and 15 not weatherized), we will continue assessment during prolonged wildfires to explore impacts on IAQ. In the subset of homes, we will measure temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and particulate matter both indoors and outdoors of the homes during and after wildfires. Home ventilation rates will be estimated using a model linking weather data and leakage area.

Expected Results:

The outputs of this work are quantitative data on housing characteristics, respiratory health, and IAQ during wildfires for low-income residents who have received energy retrofits to reduce their energy use. This information is crucial to determine if weatherization impacts health. We will also determine from this study how wildfires impact the IAQ in weatherized homes. We will use outcomes of this study to provide guidance on weatherization that reduces energy use in homes while still providing a healthy indoor environment. We will publish two research papers in peer review journals detailing our study results.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

residence, FEV1, FVC, health effect, human health, asthma, monitoring, fires, PM2.5, HCHO, ventilation rate, Air-exchange rate

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • Final Report