L to R, Russ Barnett, Susan Rames, Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, Barbara Polivka and Bryan Beatty

UofL’s Russ Barnett, director of research, Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development and Barbara Polivka, PhD, Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair in Nursing Research at the UofL School of Nursing, presented preliminary environmental data collected inside and outside of homes in Louisville to the Metro Council’s Health, Education and Housing Committee on Nov. 11.

The data collection is part of a study to understand the personal and environmental influences of asthma in older adults. Polivka and her interdisciplinary team were awarded a five-year, $2.3 million National Institute on Aging grant earlier this year to measure chemical emissions from outdoor and common indoor materials and allergens associated with higher risks of asthma.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in cleaning products, carpets, paints and other items common to houses are known to cause problems for children with asthma, but this is the first study to explore VOC exposure and asthma control in older adults. Asthma sufferers often experience exacerbations following exposure to dust, smoke, fumes, fungi, animals and plants.

So far, UofL researchers have recruited 35 participants in the study. During the Metro Council presentation, Polivka and Barnett will discuss the 84 VOCS and 52 chemicals measured in and around participant homes. Some exceed EPA health standards, and a few like Freon 12, although phased out in the 1990s, are still being measured in homes.

The researchers hope to recruit about 200 asthma sufferers age 60 and older who are non-smokers and have no other lung diseases.

Study participants can receive up to $200 in gift cards, asthma trigger control supplies and test results. For more information on qualifications for study inclusion, contact Susan Rames at 502-852-2273 or asthma@louisville.edu.

Read more about the asthma study.

Julie Heflin
Julie oversees digital content for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She began her UofL career on the Health Sciences Center campus in 2007. Prior to this, Julie was a journalist with WFPL (Louisville Public Media), and occasionally filed reports for National Public Radio.