CINCINNATI—It is thought that the benefits of the green movement could go beyond environmental sustainability to directly impact human health. A new University of Cincinnati (UC) study seeks to measure the potential health benefits of "green” practices in housing.
UC is one of the first research sites to participate in a new federally funded study which assesses the economic impact of "green” housing—particularly when it comes to the health of people living in multi-family, low-income housing.
The goal of the study is to assess how green housing factors—such as reduced exposure to allergens and toxic substances—impact human health, for example, asthma. It is the first multi-center study looking at whether green housing factors are associated with positive human health effects.
"Housing conditions have long been acknowledged as having an important impact on public health, but the focus has shifted over the past 50 years from basic deficiencies—like inadequate sanitation and overcrowding—to more complex factors like indoor air quality, childhood lead poisoning, injury prevention, asthma control and hazardous chemical exposure,” explains Tiina Reponen, PhD, a UC professor of environmental health and principal investigator of the local arm of the study.
Reponen notes that green building practices have become popular in the past decade, but they can be costly and the health benefits are unknown.
"We need a better understanding of whether green-built housing can reduce exposures to potentially harmful substances and the specific green building practices that are most impactful for protecting people from harmful environmental exposures, such as pesticides and allergens” adds Reponen.
Researchers are seeking about 70 families with children—ages 7 through 12—with asthma and who reside in the Villages at Roll Hill (formerly Fay Apartments), an apartment complex with more than 800 units currently under renovation.
Measurements of mold, indoor allergens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides and airborne particles will be collected in study participant homes at different time points. Children with asthma will be asked to give urine and blood samples to screen for traces of VOCs, pesticides and exposure to tobacco smoke. Researchers will also gather data related to lung function and overall respiratory health.
Qualified study participants will be compensated after each home assessment is completed. Allergy testing results will also be provided at no charge.
The research is being conducted in partnership with Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc., of Columbia, Md. Cincinnati is one of the first metropolitan areas being assessed in this multicenter study. Boston is also being assessed by the Harvard School of Public Health. Co-investigators of the Cincinnati study include Sergey Grinshpun, PhD, a professor in the UC Department of Environmental Health, and Patrick Ryan, PhD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
For more information about study enrollment, contact Christopher Schaffer at 513-558-0584.