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Climate Change, the Indoor Environment and Health

Hurricane Sandy: Recovery from Catastrophic Weather

Many responded to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy: union and non-union construction, trade and maintenance or public works employees; public health and environmental professionals; emergency response including medical personnel; volunteers – student, faith-based and/or community organizations; and family members and friends of property owners. Exposure to molds and associated bioaerosols is a risk factor for respiratory illness. Although technical guidance and training materials on mold exposure and mitigation are readily available, workers are at risk as recovery from Sandy ensues. Further complexity arises because knowledge about health effects from mold exposure (and appropriate protection) is incomplete, and misinformation and controversy in public media leads to confusion.

In the fall 2013, the Center for Indoor Environments and Health began work on:

Recovery from catastrophic weather: mold exposure and health-related training (funded under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Hurricane Sandy Cooperative Agreement 1U01OH010627-01. This description is solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.)

The project is designed to increase knowledge and protective behavior related to mold mitigation and health effects within emergency and recovery respondents in states affected by Hurricane Sandy. The project team will engage response and recovery workers and the volunteer community to identify barriers to a) becoming knowledgeable and b) acting appropriately to reduce the risk from mold exposure activities. The team will develop and offer on-line publication (including links to vetted resources) and a series of seminar trainings.

To better prepare emergency response personnel to address respiratory illness and mold exposure, and to provide guidance to primary care clinicians to address patients presenting with illnesses that relate to exposures during hurricane response and recovery activities, a new course segment offering Continuing Medical Education will be incorporated into the UConn Center for Indoor Environments and Health on-line Clinicians Mold Course.

Utilizing established relationships with state health and emergency response agencies, healthy homes programs, union health and safety groups, faith-based and community organizations, the project will successfully implement the program in Connecticut. The network will be broadened to contacts throughout the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy to offer the materials on overcoming the barriers to using methods and personal protective equipment to mitigate mold exposure for disaster preparedness programs throughout the country.

Recovery from catastrophic weather brings threats and opportunities to public health. Mold exposure and related respiratory illness are unintended consequences to unprepared response and recovery personnel. With greater knowledge about mold's relationship to health and with better skills in addressing flood-damaged properties, the well-prepared workforce will have increased capacity to protect worker and volunteer populations against illness and to rebuild environments for healthier, more resilient communities able to withstand the next hurricane.

Healthy Homes

Hartford Neighborhood Healthy Homes Project

This innovative environmental health program focuses on safety, lead hazards, and contributors to asthma symptoms. The series of checklists were developed to aid the project’s community partners, the Blue Hills Civic Association and the Christian Activities Council, in assessing home environments.

Green and Healthy Homes

Community health is supported when green building and healthy homes principles are included in home construction and maintenance programs. The public health infrastructure around housing includes many disparate organizations. Social service agencies, local health departments, housing agencies, utility weatherization programs and community development agencies have responsibilities and varying authority around housing availability and/or quality. Each has specific core missions, so integrating healthy homes considerations with already often burdensome tasks can be difficult.

The Center for Indoor Environments and Health (CIEH) is a partner of the Connecticut Children's Medical Center's LAMPP Green and Healthy Homes project in Hartford, CT. Funding for the project is provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Award CTHHOP0005-11 to the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Together, CIEH and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center sought to address health and safety hazards in homes of economically disadvantaged families by engaging agencies and organizations, increasing their knowledge of healthy homes principles, and fostering cross dialogue among the group. The approach utilized 54 partner organizations from local health departments, housing authorities, civic associations and private enterprises engaged in health, environment and/or energy improvements. The Center for Indoor Environments and Health is providing educational programs targeted at asthma prevention and is evaluating the partnership approach through multi-faceted means-survey and focus group – to determine how the partner organizations met healthy homes assessment, prioritization and intervention tasks.

Mold and Moisture Assessment Tool – New England School Project

Due to the impact of bioaerosol exposure on teacher and student health, Dr. Michael Hodgson, as a staff member of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and Mr. William A. Turner from Turner Building Science, developed a check sheet approach (Scale) to assessing schools for mold and moisture.

NIOSH refined the approach and completed research supporting utility of qualitative assessment for mold and moisture. The Center for Indoor Environments and Health has facilitated some NIOSH efforts. The NIOSH Dampness and Mold Assessment Tools (DMAT) is available to help schools improve indoor environment by identifying areas with moisture and mold in classroom and school buildings.

Tools for Techs

“Tools for Techs,” launched as a result of a collaborative effort involving UConn Health, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Technical High School System, and the State Vocational Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers. Designed to supplement the EPA’s Tools for Schools (TfS) program, “Tools for Techs” addresses the unique indoor air quality issues found in Technical High Schools and the traditional high schools that teach technologies.

Technical high schools and the technology education corridors in traditional high schools are essentially mini industrial complexes because many of the classrooms, or shops, are devoted to teaching trades. Students and staff are potentially exposed to emissions associated with these trades including welding and soldering fumes from the welding or HVAC shops, combustion products from culinary arts kitchens or auto technologies shops, wood dust, stains and lacquer from the carpentry shops, and acrylates and solvents from hairdressing classrooms. These emissions are hazardous if exposures are not controlled.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools (fS) model, multidisciplinary building teams utilize checklists completed by teachers and observations made during walkthrough to develop and prioritize recommendations that will improve the indoor air quality in schools. The “Tools for Techs” checklists address the specific indoor air quality challenges associated with many of the trades.

Anne Bracker, M.P.H., C.I.H., developed a packet of trade specific checklists for the school system, “Tools for Techs” and launched several new training initiatives for the technical high schools. Anne Bracker is an Industrial Hygienist with Connecticut OSHA.

38 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT 06109
Phone: 860-263-6920
Fax: 860-263-6940

Download the Checklist Packet

Green Cleaning

The relationship of cleaning materials with respiratory outcomes is a major focus of the UConn project Green Cleaning: Exposure Characterization and Adoption Process Among Custodians. This project seeks to increase the awareness of this among custodial staff.

Green Cleaning Myths

CT DEEP, in conjunction with CT DPH, has developed an innovative video on green cleaning – “Wastebusters” Green Cleaning Myths.”

Watch Video

This video was created to address an important public health issue in CT Schools – the need to educate school staff, parents and students about the need to comply with the 2009 CT Green Cleaning Products Law, which states, "No parent, guardian, teacher or staff member may bring into the school facility any consumer product which is intended to clean, deodorize, sanitize or disinfect.” The law is an important public health tool to protect staff and students from exposures to traditional toxic cleaners. School districts have done a great job of implementing the law, but “illegal” cleaning products are constantly being found in schools.