(This is a guest post by Jordan Peccia at Yale University)
After a six-month period of home recruitment, surface and aerosol sampling campaigns have begun in an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation indoor microbiome sponsored project awarded to Tulsa and Yale Universities. The goal of this proposed research is to explore how two central and modifiable building environmental characteristics (ventilation and cleaning) influence bacterial and fungal microbial communities in indoor air and on surfaces of homes. This study is being conducted in the Cherokee Nation, which is the largest Native American tribe in the United States. The population of their jurisdictional area is 50% rural, and this contrasts with that of the entire state of Oklahoma, which is 32% rural. In some predominantly Cherokee Counties the poverty level is as high as 31% with 38.5% of children living below the poverty line. Native American asthma prevalence in Oklahoma is 18.9%, more than double the prevalence for the total Oklahoma population. Homes often have compromised roofs, walls, and fenestration that result in moisture damage and limited ventilation. This mixture of low ventilation and moisture can contribute to increased microbial exposures, which are known contributors to asthma severity. Tribal resources to address IAQ issues in homes are scarce, and are often overshadowed by weatherization and building envelope-tightening energy audits, which may work counter to improving the IAQ.
The proposed study and research questions will parallel a recently initiated Tulsa University Indoor Air Program (TU IAP) study sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Research. The EPA NCER sponsored study is entitled “From Home to School Indoor Air Quality Tribal Intervention Study” and addresses Native American (Cherokee, Navajo, and Nez Perce) students total asthma trigger exposure between home and schools and tracks asthma symptom days.
By investigating the fundamental relationships between ventilation and cleaning interventions on indoor microbial communities in homes, this proposed Alfred P. Sloan Foundation study will make a significant contribution to knowledge about how building operational measures designed to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) alter the indoor fungal and bacterial ecology.