Asthma by Center for the Greater Good

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A white paper on Asthma by Center for the Greater Good.

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Asthma by Center for the Greater Good

  1. 1. GREEN AND HEALTHY HOUSING Asthma in Low-Income Communities Written by Rachel Goldmanwww.CenterforGreaterGood.com | contact@centergg.com | 410 East State Street Eagle, ID 83616
  2. 2. Improving Resident Health through Building Practices and Materiality The correlation between building materials and occupant health has become undeniable overthe past twenty years. As time goes on, it is clear the lower income population in the United Statesbears the brunt of the damage. On average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors.1 Besidesthe obvious health benefits of spending time outdoors (such as natural Vitamin D exposure, moodenhancement, and outdoor exercise), too much time inside can be dangerous if one occupies a spacewith poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor levelsof pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoorlevels.2 Exposure to indoor air pollutants has been linked to life threatening diseases, the mostcommon of which is asthma. One in five people have asthma. Every day, asthma in the United Statescauses: • 40,000 people to miss school or work • 5,000 people to visit the emergency room • 1,000 people to be admitted to the hospital for an average of 3 days • 11 people to die3 The annual cost of asthma in the United States is estimated to be nearly $18 billion, $10 billionof which is the direct cost of hospitalization.4 With healthcare costs as high as they are, those whoare truly burdened by this disease are the low-income population. According to a UCLA study, a low-income individual is twice as likely to visit the emergency department due to asthma when comparedto higher-income individuals, and once there, they are six times as likely to be hospitalized.5 “The poorest among us suffer most because they lack quality health care and live in high-risk environments,” said Ying-Ying Meng, a senior research scientist with the UCLA Center for HealthPolicy Research. “That disparity also burdens our health system with costly emergency care andhospitalizations and extracts the additional high cost of millions of lost days of work and school.”Meng added, “Asthma has the potential to be debilitating, but it can be effectively controlled throughappropriate medical care and avoidance of triggers.”6 The Center for the Greater Good is dedicated tosolving the problem of poor health in communities, instead of simply treating the condition. We havespent countless hours alongside our developer partners identifying the best practices in affordablehousing building design, with the objective of reducing the effects of asthma and other healthconcerns caused by poor IAQ.The Air we Breathe is Slowly Poisoning Us It is easy to identify the source of poor IAQ in buildings and to recognize how pollutantsaffect the resident’s overall quality of life; the difficult part is eliminating them. Sources of indoorair pollution may include: combustion sources; building materials and furnishings; householdcleaning, maintenance, personal care, and hobby products; central heating and cooling systems and1 The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality. U.S. EPA/Office of Air and Radiation. Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (6609J) Cosponsored with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, EPA 402-K-93-007.2 The Inside Story3 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - Information About Asthma, Allergies, Food Allergies and More! Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8>.4 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America5 Driscoll, Gwendolyn. “Asthma Disproportionately Affects Low-income Populations | UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.” UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. UCLA, 10 Dec. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.healthpolicy.ucla.edu/ NewsReleaseDetails.aspx?id=71>.6 Asthma Disproportionately Affects Low-income Populations 2
  3. 3. humidification devices; and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.7 TheCenter for Disease Control warns that indoor contaminants such as dust mites, molds, cockroaches,pet dander, secondhand smoke and some chemicals can trigger asthma attacks.8 Moving forwardthere are strategies to improving IAQ that have the potential to decrease the burden of asthma andother preventable health concerns for communities; the greatest challenge is completing renovationand demolition of existing structures without releasing harmful chemicals and dust particles into theair and soil.The Center for the Greater Good Promotes Best Practices in Healthy Building Designand Construction The Center for the Greater Good works with foundations and investors to build communitiesin a financially innovative way with innovation extending to every aspect of the projects we fund. Ourbuildings are designed with the resident’s health in mind. Our Best Practices in design center aroundpassive methods for improved materiality, increased natural light and improved air circulation. TheCenter for the Greater Good encourages developers to invest in natural, durable building materialsthat do not off gas. Ideal building materials meet the following requirements. They: contain recycledcontent; come from natural, plentiful or renewable sources; have a resource efficient manufacturingprocess; are locally available; are salvaged, refurbished or remanufactured; are recyclable or reusable;durable; are low or non toxic, output minimal chemical emissions; have a low VOC assembly, aremoisture resistant; and are healthfully maintained. The Center for the Greater Good also incentivizesdevelopers to design buildings with maximum indoor exposure to natural light. It is part of ourcommitment to further improve resident health and reduce energy costs associated with lighting.Benefits to natural light include: reduced energy consumption; reduction of mildew or mold built-up; natural vitamin D exposure; increased productivity experienced for occupants; and improvedinterior visual appeal.9 It is also important to circulate fresh, outdoor air to remove stale air and movepollutants out, as well as filter mechanically circulated air in order to cut down on the distribution ofmold, mildew, dust, allergens, pet dander, and other potentially health impactful particles. The Center for the Greater Good not only strives to build better quality buildings, we alsoencourage the healthiest possible strategies to construction, maintenance and eventual demolition.Our developer partners work with only the highest quality construction firms to ensure two conceptson the job site: the proper installation and implementation of new building materials and strategies;and the best practices for building construction, renovation and demolition. Many approaches withthe purpose of improving building efficiency and occupant health (such as the use of new materialsand construction methods) require special installation. It is important that time and care be takenduring the strategy implementation process to ensure the building functions as planned. The bestpractices for building construction, renovation and demolition must also be followed to preserve IAQby reducing the release of contaminates into the air. Examples of practices include: the isolation ofconstruction work areas from occupied areas through the use of appropriate containment barriers;the negative pressurization of construction work areas and/or the positive pressurization of occupiedareas to prevent the migration of air contaminants; and maintenance of an adequate unoccupiedbuffer zone around the work areas to allow for construction or renovation traffic.7 “Indoor Air Home | Air.” US Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/iaq/>.8 Asthma Prevalence, Health Care Use and Mortality: United States, 2003-05, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/ hestats/ashtma03-05/asthma03-05.htm9 “Natural Lighting Strategies and Benefits | One Green Planet.” One Green Planet | One Green Planet | One Green Planet Is an Online Ecosystem That Draws Links between the World of Ecology, the Environment, Animals and Vegan Living. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/natural-lighting/>. 3
  4. 4. Improve the Quality of the Air, Improve the Quality of the Life Asthma affects one out of five Americans, but it affects the low-income population at a farhigher rate, partially due to hazardous living conditions. Society will benefit from a reduction inasthma among the low income population because it can recover some of the $18 Billion spentannually on asthma treatment. Individuals and society will also benefit financially by missing workless due to asthma symptoms. Children living an asthma free life will develop more active lifestyles,and miss school less often. The Center for the Greater Good, alongside our developer partners andfoundations, is investing in proactive solutions to poor health in communities. 4

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