HUD: Over $15 Million Awarded in Research Grants to Reduce Housing-Related Health Hazards and Improve Energy Efficiency

Funding to improve methods to identify and control key residential hazards

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $15.7 million to 18 universities, public health, and housing organizations to conduct housing-related hazard and energy efficiency research studies. Provided through HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH), the research grants aim to identify and improve methods for detecting and controlling lead and other housing-related health and safety hazards and will incorporate weatherization into residential lead and healthy homes interventions.

Providing funds for these studies and demonstrations is extremely important for developing knowledge that helps to create and sustain new and existing housing that supports the health of residents, especially populations at higher risk of being affected by home health hazards, such as young children and seniors.

“A home is a determinant of health, and today, too many homes are plagued with lead-based paint hazards, which disproportionality impact communities of color. HUD is committed addressing this issue and doing so in a way that places environmental justice and equity at the center of our efforts,” said Matthew Ammon, Director of the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. “Supporting research and demonstrations on housing-related health hazards is the basis for creating and maintaining homes that support the health of occupants and improve energy efficiency.”

HUD estimates that approximately 24 million older homes in the U.S. still have significant lead-based paint hazards, to date. While most public housing has already undergone abatement, there are still some properties where lead-based paint remains, and where hazards have redeveloped. HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes promotes state and local efforts to eliminate dangerous lead-paint and other housing-related health and safety hazards from homes of lower-income families, stimulate private sector investment in controlling these hazards, support cutting-edge research on methods for assessing and controlling housing-related health and safety hazards, and educate the public about the dangers of hazards in the home.

HUD’s Lead and Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grant Program is awarding research grants to the following universities, public health, and housing organizations to identify and clean up lead hazards in their properties:

2021 Lead Technical Studies Grant Awards

Kansas

Kansas State University will be awarded $700,000 to measure the effectiveness of soil treatments (such as using phosphorus, iron, and exceptional quality biosolids) to reduce the hazard of lead exposure in urban soils. The target population is young children in Kansas City’s urban core, where some lead poisoning rates exceed nine times the national average. Study objectives include: 1) identify improved, cost-effective protocols to manage commonly elevated urban soil lead; 2) build community capacity to use these protocols where they are most needed to prevent children having elevated blood lead levels; and 3) determine the efficacy of mitigation. Partners include City of Kansas City, Missouri; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Maryland

National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) will be awarded $699,696. Working with the Lead and Environmental Hazards Association, the NCHH will first establish a database standard for the collection of high-quality paint and dust lead data, and then assemble a dataset of existing lead evaluation reports of adequate size to answer questions such as the relative risk of deteriorated LBP on various housing components. This information is expected to help improve lead hazard control policy and practice in the US. In addition, the study will demonstrate the feasibility of creating a privately sourced, lead hazard tracking dataset, similar in concept to the CDC’s national tracking system for radon.

QuanTech, Inc. will be awarded $648,549 to test the new EPA floor clearance standard for efficacy. The study objectives are: 1) determine the efficacy of a single wipe, 1 square foot floor sample for detection of clearance failures at the new level; 2) determine the efficacy of the (“composited”) four-wipe, 4 square foot floor sample, as shown in an existing American Society for Testing and Materials standard for detection of clearance failures at the new level; and 3) determine the efficacy of EPA’s cleaning verification for detection of clearance failures at the new level.

Michigan

Michigan State University will be awarded $699,264 to work with the Lansing Housing Commission and the Ingham County Health Department to assess the effectiveness of portable air filtration (PAF) for mitigating lead dust exposures and reducing childhood blood lead levels in older housing. Specific objectives include: (1) assess reduction of lead dust exposures; (2) assess reduction of childhood blood-lead levels; and (3) develop evidence-based exposure reduction guidance for wider public use of PAF. Positive results would form part of the evidence base required to promote wide-scale PAF implementation. This is particularly important for households that lack the resources to promptly remove lead-based paint hazards by other methods.

Michigan Technological University will be awarded $699,916 for a laboratory and field study to: (1) prescribe the most appropriate, low-cost lead-immobilization technique for contaminated soils of variable physical and chemical properties; (2) correlate standard laboratory-based measurements of the potential uptake of lead from soil following incidental ingestion with measurements made using a novel approach that uses human cell lines, which may provide more realistic risk numbers; and (3) predict blood lead levels and model human health risk for exposure to lead-contaminated soils with and without chemical amendments. This new knowledge is intended to help practitioners select site-appropriate, ecologically, and economically sustainable lead immobilization methods for remediation of residential soils.

New York

The Research Foundation for SUNY on behalf of the University at Buffalo will be awarded $659,499 to partner with the City of Buffalo and Grassroot Gardens of Western New York, a community gardening organization, to test the efficacy of dried mycelium – the root structure of mushrooms – to remove lead from soils in Buffalo. The study aims to: 1) investigate the mechanisms through which mycelium removes lead from soil; 2) test the efficacy of soil remediation via dried mycelium at varying soil pH levels and lead concentrations; 3) deliver educational programming on the risks of lead-contaminated soils and risk reduction; and 4) conduct a policy analysis and explore end-user perceptions and acceptability to inform future implementation efforts. If successful, this project will assess the feasibility of using this approach to remove lead from contaminated soils and broaden the range of educational materials on risks related to contaminated soils.

2021 Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grant Awards

California

Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, Inc. will be awarded $886,448 to assess the effect of the California Public Utilities Commission’s program to replace gas and biomass-fueled appliances with electric appliances in the homes of 75 low-income households in California’s San Joaquin Valley compared to 75 homes that do not receive the replacement appliances. The impact on indoor air quality will be assessed by comparing average daily indoor concentrations of common indoor air pollutants in the study homes. Researchers will also characterize and quantify impacts of key variables on indoor pollutant concentrations, such as use of venting hoods, air exchange rates, and outdoor air pollution. Another study goal is to evaluate the impact of a smart, low-cost air filtration unit on average indoor concentrations of airborne particles, especially during wildfire smoke events.

Iowa

University of Iowa will be awarded $700,000 to study data-based tools and implementation practices to assess drinking water as a potential contributor of lead exposure. The study objectives are to: (1) build an assessment tool using data from Flint, MI, such as a water lead risk score, to identify Flint homes that had a high risk of water-lead contamination; (2) adapt and generalize the water lead risk assessment tool to be more widely applicable to other communities; and (3) partner with public health agencies and grantees of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes to further validate and promote using the water lead assessment tool to identify high-risk homes and residents, connect them to lead mitigation and public health promotion resources, and provide guidance on possible water-based intervention strategies. The second phase of the study will involve testing the tool using housing data in Iowa.

Maryland

National Center for Healthy Housing will be awarded $1,000,000 to study the premise that energy efficient “Passive House” multifamily design in affordable housing offers two elements that should result in lower airborne fine particulate matter levels in these homes compared to those in conventionally built multifamily homes: 1) a very tight building envelope that will reduce infiltration of these outdoor particulates and 2) the use of a continuously running balanced energy recovery ventilator with a high efficiency filter to reduce indoor levels of these particulates matter. The researchers will compare the levels of several pollutants and environmental conditions between the two groups.

Massachusetts

President and Fellows of Harvard College will be awarded $1,000,000 to better understand how sensors and educational models can be used to promote individual actions to address indoor environmental hazards by conducting a randomized control trial in the community of Dorchester in Boston, MA. The study will use a combination of real-time in-home monitors and exposure assessment methods to estimate indoor exposures to multiple chemical contaminants. The assessments will be conducted across different groups using different levels of educational models. Partnering with Silent Spring Institute, Harvard will address the following three objectives: 1) assess whether air pollutant monitors with real-time feedback alter behaviors to improve indoor air quality; 2) assess whether different models of participant education along with real-time feedback alters behaviors to further improve indoor air quality; and 3) assess whether participant education, including use of a smartphone app, alters behaviors affecting levels of specific contaminants.

North Carolina

Duke University will be awarded $1,000,000 to evaluate new approaches to quantify and reduce chemical exposures from common building materials, with an emphasis on plastic additives, pesticides, flame retardants, and lead. The objective of this project is to develop methods to quantify and reduce chemical exposures from the home environment using approaches that are adaptable and customizable to individuals and households. The study will: 1) advance a new wearable passive sampling device to assess personal exposures to metals and organic compounds; 2) identify the types of building materials and housing characteristics associated with higher levels of exposure; and 3) assess the effectiveness of robotic vacuuming for reducing exposure to a range of indoor contaminants that pose health risks.

Oklahoma

The University of Tulsa will be awarded $999,831 to further develop the mold classification tool (a DNA-based/machine learning approach for classifying the dampness/mold status of a building based on analysis of mold in settled dust samples) into a broadly applicable tool for home mold inspection and assessment of remediation effectiveness. The study has three objectives; 1) determine if the tool accurately tracks the return of a home’s fungal condition from water-damaged/moldy to normal after thorough, standardized remediation has been conducted; 2) explore associations between tool scores with quantitative metrics of observable dampness and moldiness previously correlated with health; and 3) collect pilot data for planning a future study linking successful mold remediation (assessed by the tool) and improved health among asthmatic children.

Tennessee

Three3 Inc. will be awarded $999,002 to address the gap between what is known about how weatherization and healthy homes interventions affect indoor environment quality and observed variations in asthma outcomes following interventions. A second objective is to determine whether easily installable air purifiers and box fans with medium-efficiency filters can appreciably improve indoor air quality in both weatherized and un-weatherized homes of low-income families and if these changes impact asthma outcomes. The project will draw from a sample of individuals with active asthma already identified through an evaluation of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s income-eligible weatherization program, Home Uplift.

2021 Healthy Homes and Weatherization Cooperation Demonstration Grant Awards

Maryland

The Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be awarded $1,000,000 to partner with the Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland State DHCD, Amerigroup, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative), Civic Works, and the Baltimore City HUBS Collaborative to implement a program model for the integration of comprehensive lead hazard reduction, healthy housing interventions, and weatherization strategies to create lead safe, healthy, and energy efficient homes for low-income families and seniors in Baltimore City’s most at-risk communities.

The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Inc., will be awarded $1,000,000 to partner with the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development and Methodist Le Bonheur Community Outreach to demonstrate in the city of Memphis that systematic coordination between the City’s HUD-funded Lead-Free Memphis program and Department of Energy-funded Weatherization Assistance Program is operationally feasible. The study will put in place protocols, processes, and resources to systematize this coordination in the future and measure the incremental benefit and impact of more effectively coordinated service delivery.

Michigan

Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, in partnership with Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD), will be awarded $1,000,000 to use a rapid cycle impact project approach to evaluate how changing intervention projects implementation strategies will affect project delivery efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and safety of homes of low-income families. They plan to demonstrate effective strategies for coordination between Lead Hazard Reduction and Weatherization Assistance Programs, reduce weatherization deferrals through coordination with Lead Hazard Reduction grants, and demonstrate sustainable models of inter-program cooperation, including data sharing, reporting, and targeting and recruiting clients.

North Carolina

The Piedmont Triad Regional Council will be awarded $1,000,000 to partner with City of Greensboro’s Lead-Safe Housing Program, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Center for Housing & Community Studies, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Center for Energy Research and Technology, North Carolina Justice Center, and the North Carolina State Energy Program to implement a collaborative program to address housing issues of low-income families related to lead-based paint, healthy homes, and energy efficiency and weatherization. The program will implement a protocol that includes joint applications, inspections/assessments and intervention measures that will reduce the burden on applicants to navigate multiple agencies for these services.

Wisconsin

Community Relations-Social Development Commission (SDC) in partnership with the City of Milwaukee Department of Health and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be awarded $1,000,000 to demonstrate effective strategies for coordination between Lead Hazard Control/Healthy Homes and Weatherization Assistance Programs to maximize program efficiencies to benefit occupants, reduce weatherization deferrals, demonstrate sustainable models of inter-program cooperation (including data sharing, reporting, and targeting/recruiting clients), and demonstrate effective models for the sustainable financing of coordinated healthy homes/weatherization interventions. The funding will also support the collection of data to evaluate the housing interventions conducted through this inter-program coordination and remediation of homes of low-income residents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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