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LEED-certified buildings: Efficient, but are they healthy?

Living or working in buildings that carry the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) seal of approval may lower your carbon footprint, but it might not protect you from potential health hazards according to a recent report from Environment and Human Health, Inc.

The report (.pdf) found that the LEED scoring system favored energy conservation over other factors:

The effect is to encourage tighter buildings, resulting in lower levels of exchange between indoor and outdoor air. Since indoor air is often more contaminated than outdoor air, the effect may intensify chemical exposures, increasing the likelihood of unintended health consequences.

Elements of the built environment that potentially affect human health include the location of buildings, waste management, building materials, infrastructure to deliver air and water, furnishings, and appliances that burn fuels indoors. All of these elements are considered in this assessment of the growing conflict between green building development standards and human health.

Stanford's Chief of General Internal Medicine Mark Cullen, MD, reviewed the report and said in a release:

(The research) warn us now of the potential for green building technologies - even while they bring important energy benefits - to jeopardize the indoor air we breathe, the water we drink and the overall safety of our habitats. This is a timely lesson from a very sage group.

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