Numerous studies, dating back to the industrial revolution and beyond, have recognized the association between health and housing. Tenements, designed to solve the housing crisis of the 19th century, were found to be breeding pools for contagious diseases. Tenement architecture, which favored narrow design, cheap building materials, and little to no ventilation or natural light, led to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions and was linked to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases including cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid fever.
In recent years, health issues related to the building design and development as well as to the materials used in construction have taken center stage. Lead-based paint hazards cause severe developmental issues and brain damage, especially in children. Asbestos is highly carcinogenic. And early efforts to improve building performance may have contributed to “sick” buildings, in which high levels of indoor air pollutants were found.
Indoor pollution levels range from 2 to 5 times higher (and in some instances 100 times higher) than outdoor pollutant levels and may pose greater health risks to individuals. People spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Poor air quality increases the incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases, making individuals that spend the greatest amount of time indoors, such as children, seniors and the chronically ill, the most susceptible to indoor pollutants and these ailments.