CINCINNATI—Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have received $688,261 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assess the impact of home air cleaning in reducing childhood asthma.
The funding, part of HUD’s Healthy Homes Technical Studies (HHTS) grant program, will be used to study the efficiency of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration in the home for reducing exposure to airborne particles from traffic. To meet the HEPA standard, a filter must satisfy certain standards of efficiency set by the U.S. Department of Energy.
UC was one of 39 local and state government agencies and research institutions recently awarded more than $112 million in grants by HUD for HHTS and other programs designed to make low-income housing safer and healthier.
Tiina Reponen, PhD, a professor in the UC College of Medicine Department of Environmental Health, is the principal investigator for the study. She is the director of the UC Education and Research Center, which is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and housed in the Department of Environmental Health, with five programs among UC’s colleges of medicine, nursing and engineering and applied science.
"Indoor environment is affected by both indoor and outdoor sources,” says Reponen, who notes that infants and children spend 80 percent of their time indoors. "Vehicular traffic is a major source for outdoor particles and affects a large group of the population.” (Approximately 11.3 million people, or 3.7 percent of the U.S. population, live within 150 meters of a major highway.)
Reponen and colleagues from UC and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have collected data on traffic-related air pollution from the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), a long-term epidemiological study examining the effects of traffic particulates on childhood respiratory health and allergy development. Study participants—newborns in the Cincinnati metropolitan area from 2001 through 2003—were chosen based on family history and their residence being either near or far from a major highway or bus route. That study is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
"We have previously demonstrated that a decrease of as little as 25 percent in traffic-related air pollution has a clinically significant impact on asthma control in adults,” says Reponen. "However, to our knowledge, no previous study has assessed the association between HEPA intervention and childhood asthma morbidity.”
The new study will enroll asthmatic children age 12 to 14 with high traffic exposure, drawn from the CCAAPS cohort. Subjects will be randomized to either HEPA or dummy air purifier (air cleaner without the filter) groups for one month, followed by a one-month "wash-out” period (no air purifiers are used), then will cross over to the other treatment arm for an additional month.
"We hypothesize that the use of HEPA air purifiers will significantly reduce the indoor concentration of traffic-related pollutants, and this reduction is associated with improved respiratory health in asthmatic children,” Reponen says.
Reponen says researchers will partner with the Cincinnati Health Department to produce educational material and informational community meetings to educate community members about the health effects of traffic pollution and ways to reduce exposures to traffic-related particles. In addition, educational fliers will be distributed via Cincinnati Children’s asthma clinic, the Cincinnati Health Department and local schools.
"Ultimately, our hope is that the study will produce significant health benefits to the communities close to traffic sources,” Reponen says.
Co-investigators for the study include Sergey Grinshpun, PhD, and Tolly Epstein, MD, of the UC College of Medicine and Patrick Ryan, PhD, of Cincinnati Children’s.