Comparison of multiple environmental factors for asthmatic children in public housing

Indoor Air. 2003 Mar;13(1):18-27. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0668.2003.01130.x.


Nine families of a public housing development in Boston were enrolled in a pilot asthma intervention program designed to gather dense environmental data and generate hypotheses about the relative importance of different contaminants and the viability of interventions. Despite formidable challenges working with this inner-city population, the project team succeeded in gaining active support for the project by forming a partnership with a community-based organization and by building positive relationships between the field team and the residents. Families were provided with physical interventions such as air filters, industrial cleaning and mattress covers to each apartment. Indoor temperature was high and relative humidity low during winter. Insulation of exposed steam pipes did not lower temperature. Cockroach, mouse and pet antigen levels were variable and frequently high in settled dust. Viable fungal spore levels were variable and high in some apartments. Dust-mite allergen levels were below the level of concern. Industrial cleaning led to transient reduction in mouse and cockroach antigen burden. Mattress and pillow covers lowered dust-mite antigen in bedrooms, but not living rooms. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels exceeded ambient concentrations due to use of gas stoves and concentrations of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <2.5 microm (PM2.5) were above ambient levels because of smoking. Air filtering systems did not reduce PM levels. Several volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were above adverse risk concentrations. We hypothesize that our findings are consistent with a multifactorial model for exacerbation of asthma in this population and that no single problem dominates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Antigens
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Bedding and Linens
  • Boston
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cockroaches
  • Cooking
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Fungi
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mites
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Public Sector*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seasons
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Spores
  • Urban Population


  • Allergens
  • Antigens
  • Nitrogen Dioxide