Researchers find unhealthy levels of chemicals in homes of older adults Study examines effects of home environmental exposures on asthma

    Barbara Polivka, Ph.D., R.N., Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair and Professor, UofL School of Nursing.
    Barbara Polivka, Ph.D., R.N. F.A.A.N., Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair and Professor, UofL School of Nursing.

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Researchers at the University of Louisville have found high levels of several chemicals in the homes of local residents while examining the effects of home environmental exposures on asthma in adults 60 and older.

    Led by UofL School of Nursing Professor Barbara Polivka, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., the researchers are taking in-home measurements of 85 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that easily become gases at room temperature and are emitted from common household items, including paint, aerosol sprays and cleansers. Researchers also are measuring levels of fine particulates, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, temperature, humidity and environmental asthma triggers, including mold and secondhand smoke.

    An average of 30 chemicals have been detected in each home and indoor concentrations have been about 7.5 times that of outdoor concentrations.

    “One of the things we’re looking at is whether VOCs trigger asthma or make it worse,” Polivka said. “A number of these chemicals have been shown to impact our cardiovascular and respiratory health.”

    Average indoor concentrations of several chemicals have exceeded health standards. These include benzene, a known carcinogen found in gasoline, scented candles and carpet glue, and chloroform, which can cause depression and asthma and is found in chlorinated tap water and bleach.

    Louisville-area residents may qualify to participate in the study if they meet these requirements:

    • Have asthma
    • Are 60 or older
    • Not a current smoker
    • Do not have other major lung disease

    Participants will receive a total of $200 in gift cards, asthma trigger control supplies and results of their home environmental assessment.

    To see if you qualify to participate, contact or 502-852-2273.