Assessing the Potential Impact of Global Warming on Indoor Air Quality and Human Health in Two US Cities: Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA

EPA Grant Number: R835755
Title: Assessing the Potential Impact of Global Warming on Indoor Air Quality and Human Health in Two US Cities: Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA
Investigators: Koutrakis, Petros , Sarnat, Stefanie Ebelt , Mickley, Loretta J. , Zanobetti, Antonella , Sarnat, Jeremy
Institution: Harvard University
Current Institution: Emory University , Harvard University
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2017 (Extended to October 31, 2018)
Project Amount: $999,948
RFA: Indoor Air and Climate Change (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Climate Change , Air


We hypothesize that rising temperatures (T) associated with climate change will impact future home air exchange rates, leading to decreased air exchange rates during the summer season and increased air exchange rates during the spring and fall seasons relative to the present. These changes will, in turn, alter the contributions of both indoor and outdoor particle sources to indoor air quality, and subsequently, will lead to differential effects of fine particle (PM2.5) exposures on human health in the future relative to the present.


We will assemble a large database of indoor and outdoor PM2.5 mass and sulfur concentrations collected at homes in two US cities with different climatic conditions: Boston, MA (cold winters/mild summers) and Atlanta, GA (hot summers/mild winters). This database will include archived (retrospective) indoor samples from previous exposure studies in both cities and new (prospective) indoor samples to be collected in Atlanta (Aim 1). This database will be used to establish relationships between indoor concentrations of particles of outdoor and indoor sources and ambient T (Aim 2). Data from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report) will be used to forecast climatic conditions in Boston and Atlanta for two 20-year periods: 1994 to 2014 (present), and 2044 to 2064 (future). We will then use present and future T to predict the relative contribution of indoor and outdoor sources on total indoor PM2.5 for each of the two periods (Aim 3). Finally, we will estimate the effects of outdoor PM2.5 on total and cause-specific mortality in each city, and we will examine the impact of climate change-related differences in particle exposures on PM2.5-related mortality (Aim 4).

Expected Results:

Even small changes in home ventilation resulting from climate change can significantly impact indoor air quality. These changes can modify human exposures to ambient PM2.5 and their associated health effects; therefore, they can be of great public health importance. Pilot data demonstrate that the proposed study’s novel approach is feasible and produces meaningful results. Our multi-disciplinary research group has expertise in indoor air quality, exposure assessment, climate modelling, epidemiology, and biostatistics, and has published extensively in this field. We will leverage the new funds to develop models and apply them to both prospective and retrospective indoor air samples; climate forecast data, and; population health data. We expect to develop new tools and produce results that will benefit researchers and policy makers who seek to understand the impact of climatic changes on human exposures and health.

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 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Indoor/Outdoor Particle Ratio, Home Air Exchange Rate

Progress and Final Reports:

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