Indoor Air Pollution:

Federal Efforts Are Not Effectively Addressing a Growing Problem

RCED-92-8: Published: Oct 15, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on federal and state efforts to address indoor air pollution, focusing on: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); (2) seven other federal agencies; and (3) eight states with active indoor air pollution 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.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Legislation addressing GAO's recommendations has been proposed and debated in Congress, but it has not passed both Houses of Congress.

    Matter: Given the priorities of the other federal agencies that have roles in addressing indoor air pollution and the increasing competition for limited funding, Congress, in debating the Indoor Air Quality Act of 1991, may wish to consider giving other federal agencies more specific mandates in this area.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA's indoor air pollution research budget has more than doubled since 1991--$8.8 million for FY 1993. EPA has also prepared a 5-year plan for indoor air pollution research which prioritizes the agency's research needs.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should examine the agency's indoor air research budget to ensure that funding for the indoor air pollution program is consistent with its high health and environmental risk.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor (OSHA) has been made a fifth co-chair of the CIAQ. Further, members of the CIAQ are asked to review and comment on various indoor air pollution publications and documents. Indoor air quality legislation that has been introduced in the 1993 session is expected to increase CIAQ's indoor air pollution role.

    Recommendation: To elevate the attention given to indoor air pollution and to leverage EPA influence with other federal agencies, the Administrator, EPA, should work with other members of CIAQ to develop a clear charter that capitalizes on the indoor air expertise of each federal agency and clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each agency to improve coordination and information sharing among EPA and the other agencies responsible for indoor air issues.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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