Matthew S. Perzanowski, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Columbia University – The Implications of Carpet on Indoor Chemistry and Microbiology

Air Date: 8-2-2019|Episode 556

Today on IAQ Radio+ we welcome Matthew S. Perzanowski, PhD. Radio Joe attended an excellent conference earlier this week  at The Ohio State University, on “The Implications of Carpet on Indoor Chemistry and Microbiology”. Dr. Perzanowski was a presenter at the event that was organized by Karen Danemmiller, PhD and Rachel Adams, PhD, both of whom have joined us for shows on IAQ Radio+. We will review some key takeaways from the event and then go into detail on Dr. Perzanowski’s presentation and his other work.

Dr. Perzanowski’s research is focused on understanding exposures that lead to allergic sensitization and asthma. While many environmental exposures are hypothesized to have contributed to the global asthma epidemic that started in the latter half of the 20th century, a unifying theory has not been proven. Dr. Perzanowski began his research career at a preeminent allergen exposure laboratory and participated in studies conducted in communities as different as inner-city Atlanta and rural Kenya. He continued with his doctoral research working with the OLIN group in northern Sweden at the Arctic Circle where asthma is common but dust mites and cockroaches, exposure to which is important to asthma elsewhere, are not found. As a co-investigator on several established prospective cohort studies, his current research at MSPH is exploring paradigms of exposures related to asthma in an area of the world with one of the greatest asthma burdens, low and middle-income neighborhoods in NYC. He is the principal investigator on the NIH (NIEHS), HUD, CDC and ASPR funded, NYC Neighborhood Asthma and Allergy Study which is examining neighborhood differences in asthma prevalence and persistence to better understand the great disparity in asthma risk between children living just city blocks apart. The primary exposures his group is investigating are indoor allergens, combustion byproducts and fungi (including from Hurricane Sandy related water damage). Two other major research aims his laboratory is working on are implementing non-invasive measurements of airway inflammation in pediatric population based studies and evaluating the relevance of the “hygiene hypothesis” to inner-city asthma.
Matthew S. Perzanowski, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Columbia University
The Implications of Carpet on Indoor Chemistry and Microbiology
On August 2nd the last show prior to our annual summer vacation featured Mathew Perzanowski, PhD. I got a chance to meet and listen to a presentation by Dr. Perzanowski at the Carpet Conference held at Ohio State University. We started the interview by going through the presentations from the conference then went into more detail on his presentation titled “The Implications of Carpet on Indoor Chemistry and Microbiology”.
Dr. Perzanowski is an Associate Professor at Columbia University and Deputy Director of The Center for Environmental Health Sciences, in Northern Manhattan. His research is focused on understanding exposures that lead to allergic  sensitization and asthma. The primary exposures his group is investigating are indoor allergens, combustion byproducts and fungi.
Dr. Perzanowski and Joe agreed that including the carpet manufacturer’s reps was very helpful and would possibly affect the direction of future research.
1. Exposure to Re-suspended Dust from Carpets – Brandon Boor, PhD, Purdue University. -Mimicking what people are exposed to is difficult and Dr. Boor did a good job with simulating children’s activity. This study looked at inhalation exposure. Dr. Boor designed a baby robot to do research on children’s exposure. We had him on the show twice no and you can learn more here and here.
2. Quantification of Dust Re-suspension from Carpet and Other Flooring Materials -Andrea Ferro, Clarkson University. -Re-suspension of particles is greater from carpet than from smooth surfaces. Why that happens is still unknown. Is it more often cleaning that helps reduce particles on hard surfaces? We don’t know but this should be looked at.
3. Assessment of fungal exposures by using air versus vacuumed dust samples -Tiina Reponen, University of Cincinnati -Dr. Reponan discussed the different ways we assess exposure. The easiest way is to go to a home and collect a settled dust sample. We don’t always know how well settled dust relates to exposure. What Dr. Reponan discussed  during this presentation was how when measuring the fungi in  dust and air there is a pretty good concordance between them.
4. Implications of Moisture for Microbial Growth in Carpet -Sarah Haines, The Ohio State University -The work they are doing is quite interesting. For many studies we measure what fungi are present while what may be more important is what may be coming from them such as VOC’s. The study showed there is more gene activity when carpet is in high RH environments but health effects remains to be shown directly, it probably depends on what fungi and what VOC’s are present.
A lot of the exciting research seems to be going toward fungal VOC’s and potential for causing health issues. For instance asthma is most strongly associated with reported water damage or moldy smell so you might expect that is related to the VOC’s. Within asthma there is asthma and allergic asthma, allergic asthma is triggered by the proteins on particles.
5. Does dampness increase fungal spore toxicity? Connecting negative health effects and fungal gene expression -Bridget Hegarty, University of Michigan
-Increased dampness does show increase in gene expression and increase in proteins that are allergens. So far research has primarily looking at higher RH numbers at the materials surface.
6. Identifying Fungal Exposures and Examining Their Immunological Effects -Rachael Rush, WVU
– CDC/NIOSH -Rachel is a PhD student working with Brett Green at NIOSH. One of the yeasts they have been looking at is more common in homes with dogs and appears to be inversely associated with asthma. We have to be careful about how we look at this result, it’s not definitive yet. Yeasts are understudied.
7. Ozone Removal, Primary and Secondary Emissions of Aldehydes from Carpets -Elliott Gall, Portland State University -Carpet can be a pretty significant sink for Ozone and it appears to be more effective at higher RH.
8. Interactions between Chemistry and Microbiology in Carpets based on CHEMM Measurements -Pawel Misztal, The University of Texas at Austin
-Thinking about what type of VOC’s are coming off carpets and what the role of mold could be. RH is a critical factor affecting VOC off gassing.
9. Implications of Carpet and Textiles on Indoor Chemistry -Glenn Morrison, University of North Carolina -Carpet is a huge sink that may be able to help IAQ If we do it in the right way. Indoor researchers are looking at carpet in ways other than as a sink for particles. The ideal carpet may be one that captures particles and gasses that you can then clean and take out of your house.
10. -The Fundamentals of Carpet Care -John Downey, Cleaning Industry Research Institute -It was interesting to hear the practitioner’s perspective. How often to clean and how to clean, where is the dirt what areas need cleaning and how often? Carpet can help with comfort and noise.
11. Carpet: Issues with Bio-Contamination Incidents
-Paul Lemieux, EPA/ORD/NHSRC -Discussed his experience after the anthrax attacks around the same time as 9-11. Talked about how difficult it was to kill the anthrax in carpet. For possible future events dealing with carpet is more difficult than we thought. Disposal costs for contaminated carpet are very high and it’s very hard and expensive to decontaminate.
12. Industry Perspective on Carpet from Shaw -Shaw Industries, Inc.
-It was interesting to get the industry perspective. Carpet industry is now flooring industry and they are thinking about all types of surfaces. Also decrease in carpet as people move toward smooth flooring.
13. Fungal Allergen Exposures -Elliott Horner, UL Environment and Sustainability
Discussion about long term issues with carpet and fungal exposure.
14. Perspective from the Green Science Policy Institute on Improvements for Carpet
-Tom Bruton, Green Science Policy Institute
-Talked about highly phlorinated chemicals and how we would be better off not being exposed to them. Need to make customers aware of why they should ask for products without certain chemicals. The carpet pipeline is longer than we thought, it’s not just the length of time someone keeps a carpet in their home. Industry pipeline to change can be as long as 15 years.
15. Future Directions for Healthy Homes and Carpet Related Research -David Jacobs, National Center for Healthy Housing Chief Scientist
-Discussed the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines. We liked the way he linked together the two challenges of health care and appropriate housing, they have a confluence in the health issue. We need to think about this more holistically going forward.
The remainder of the show was dedicated to discussing, “Carpets: An Indoor Reservoir for Asthma Triggers” -Matt Perzanowski, Columbia University
-First job out of college started working at a job where they researched asthma.
-Large increase in asthma but we don’t really understand why however it’s clear the indoor environment is one of the drivers.
-What is asthma? Many people understand that it makes it difficult to get air into and out of the lungs. Smooth muscles wrapped around the airways constrict. There are different types of asthma.
-There has been a dramatic increase in asthma from the mid 60’s until now. Much variability between geography and even local geography, within NYC asthma prevalence varies from 3-19%. In some areas 1 in 5 kids have asthma by age 5.
-Developed (westernized) countries have higher rates but developing countries are quickly having the same issue.
-Asthma is NOT one disease.
-The development of asthma involves multiple steps. Allergic asthma is probably half of the asthma population. Different exposures affect different types of asthma.
-Study on Prenatal PAH (soot) x Cockroach allergen interaction. With the combination of high PAH levels and cockroach allergen kids were more likely to develop asthma. It’s more complicated than has been thought.
-It may be that it’s difficult to understand because its multiple diseases, multiple interactions and multiple steps.
-Dust mites are a major allergen associated with asthma. Tighter warmer homes lead to increased dust mites in homes. They can live in carpet and interventions have gone back more than 30 years including Acaracide use on carpets.
-Dust mite allergen and cat allergen in homes. Dust mite particulate is heavy and stays on surfaces unless disturbed, whereas cat allergen is easily airborne levels of cat allergen are similar in air and on surfaces.
-Neighborhood asthma prevalence and fungal diversity. Possible that having more diverse microbes may be helpful. There is more Fungal diversity in homes with carpets and non apartment buildings.
-Carpets an indoor reservoir for asthma triggers
  • Susceptibility dictated by asthma phenotype
  • Multiple exposures can act synergistically
  • Particle size is important for exposure and lung deposition
  • Carpet can serve as reservoir of allergen triggers
  • Carpet can serve as environment for producing allergens (dust mites, fungi)
  • Re-suspension of allergen triggers important (especially with vacuum cleaner)
Emerging issues include Phthalates and other chemicals in indoor environments and how they may affect health.
Our thanks go out to Dr. Perzanowski for joining us on this show.
Radio Joe Hughes