Cincinnati—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded about $1.6 million in research grants to University of Cincinnati (UC) environmental health scientists investigating lead and mold exposure in homes.
Award recipients include bioaerosols expert Tiina Reponen, PhD, and environmental and occupational health and safety experts Scott Clark, PhD, and Bill Menrath.
UC was one of just four institutions in Ohio to receive a portion of the $118 million awarded nationally by HUD. Grants were given to state and local communities, public health organizations and scientific research institutions for projects aimed at protecting children and families from dangerous lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards.
Reponen, professor of environmental health, received more than $785,000 to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the health effects of total mold exposure in children starting from infancy to age 6. Her goal is to identify a method that can predict adverse health effects caused by residential mold exposure, most notably those related to asthma and allergic rhinitis.
“This study could have a significant affect on public health because it will improve our overall understanding of allergic disease related to mold in homes,” says Reponen. “Our hope is that we can improve early prediction of allergic disease and establish cost-effective testing of mold in homes.”
This research, which is being conducted as part of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study, will test two new mold evaluation concepts to determine the role of early- and late-childhood mold exposures in allergy development; how different microbes interact with environmental agents to cause allergy, and which methods are most sensitive in predicting the development of asthma and allergic rhinitis.
In conjunction with the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), Clark, UC professor of environmental health, is involved in two HUD grants totaling about $500,000 for studies related to lead-based paint exposure. The first project will supplement a previous research database of information on more than 1,000 housing units. This new funding will allow Clark and his team to learn more about the impact of soil lead treatment on interior and exterior home dust lead levels.
The second project will assess dust and soil lead levels and paint condition in homes with different window treatments. As a subcontractor to the NCHH, Clark will compare the results in homes where windows were replaced with levels in homes that have had other window treatment methods applied, such as paint stabilization, to determine which method is more effective at eradicating the problem long term. The study will include 200 houses where lead hazard control treatments were applied 13 years earlier.
Menrath received a $328,000 grant to improve the accuracy of a commercially available wipe method to test for settled dust on the floors, window sills and window troughs of homes. He believes this test, which was originally used to clean workers’ hands, might help identify the presence of lead dust hazards following renovation, repair, painting and lead hazard reduction activities.
UC’s environmental health department is ranked fourth among National Institutes of Health-funded environmental health research programs. In total, the department holds approximately 147 grants and research contracts that total more than $24 million in direct funding annually.