Defining Healthy Housing: The Competing Priorities of Energy and Indoor Air Quality in the Early 1980s

Mariel Wolfson

W13-4: This paper is part of a larger project that situates American housing within the ecologically-oriented 1970s, when energy independence and environmental protection became political and popular priorities.  The author focuses on the early 1980s as a critical period in the history of indoor air pollution awareness. Between approximately 1980 and 1985, indoor air pollution grew from a little-known field of academic research to a major threat actively discussed in scientific, popular, and policy circles. This rapid escalation of concern would have been impossible without the foundational research of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In the wake of the oil embargo of 1973-1974, Berkeley Lab scientists quickly emerged as national and international leaders in the fields of residential energy conservation and indoor air quality, both of which became pressing and intertwined national issues that the Lab’s researchers sought to reconcile in cost-effective ways.