Surgeon General Carmona on indoor environmental quality

January 27, 2006 |

We’re a nation that doesn’t spend a lot on prevention,” said U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, speaking from the White House Summit on federal sustainable buildings. While noting that the U.S. devotes 15% of GDP to healthcare spending, “Much of what we spend on is preventable, from obesity to drunk driving.”

The Surgeon General also noted his personal concern about healthcare disparities. “Puerto Ricans have the highest asthma incidence in the world,” he said. “I grew up in Spanish Harlem, with two brothers and a sister,” he told the White House Summit of Federal Sustainable Buildings on January 24. “My parents had substance abuse problems, and our apartment was infested with roaches, mice, garbage. My brothers and my sister and myself, there wasn’t a month that we weren’t at some county hospital with some wheezing problem. It robbed me and my brothers and sister of a lot. So I see things now that I never appreciated before: the quality of the disease burden.”

He took “building officials” too task for often being too “isolated” from the health consequences of the decision they make about building quality. “As I look at the conclusions in the literature,” said Carmona, “there’s a very strong basis for this [i.e., a link between poor indoor environmental quality and health]. Individuals today spend 85-90% of their time indoors. We need to go beyond lead poisoning and smoking, to look at other issues and how they interrerlate.”

Carmona said the summary report of a conference on IAQ held January 12-13, 2005, is being finalized, and he anticipated the full report will be issued this year.

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