Sarah Elizabeth Kwan, PhM, EIT – Peccia Env Biotechnology Lab at Yale – Microbiology of the Built Environment

Air Date: 1-27-2017|Episode 445


This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Sarah Elizabeth Kwan. Sarah Kwan is a Ph.D. candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Peccia Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory at Yale University. She also received her M.S and Ph.M. in Environmental Engineering from Yale.

Full Description:

This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Sarah Elizabeth Kwan. Sarah Kwan is a Ph.D. candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Peccia Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory at Yale University. She also received her M.S and Ph.M. in Environmental Engineering from Yale. For her dissertation she has been investigating the correlation of indoor air pollution in homes & schools of the Cherokee Nation with asthma prevalence, allergy rates, & school absenteeism. As part of this research she has been conducting research on The Impact of Ventilation & Cleaning Intervention on the Indoor Microbiology of the Built Environment along with other projects we will discuss this week. Ms. Kwan received her BS Degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside CA and a BA in Interior Design at Surrey Institute of Art & Design in Surrey, UK (now known as the University for the Creative Arts). In addition to her academic research Ms. Kwan has done field work as an Interior Designer for IKEA, an Interior Architect at tBP Architecture in Newport Beach CA where she worked alongside LEED certified architects to design sustainable education buildings, and as a Physical Science Technician at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Clean Energy & Climate Change Office (CECL) & Air Quality Analysis Office in San Francisco. Her varied background along with her skills in Chemical/Biological Analysis and skills in programming and software make her a valued fixture in the Peccia Lab. She is a rare commodity as a researcher with real world practical experience. Join us and at noon eastern to LEARN MORE about the Microbiology of the Built Environment and more this week on IAQ Radio!

Z-Man’s Blog:

“Microbiology of the Built Environment”

Sarah E. Kwan, PhM, EIT is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Peccia Environmental Biotechnology Lab at Yale University. Recently, she has been conducting research investigating the correlation of indoor air pollution in homes and schools of the Cherokee Nation with asthma prevalence, asthma rates and school absenteeism. Sarah attributes her interest in health, asthma and indoor environmental quality to growing up in a missionary family of healthcare workers, having siblings with asthma and losing a grandparent to asthma.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

  • A newborn’s first real exposure to microbiome is when passing through the birth canal. Other contributors may be “belly button oligarchs”, amniotic fluid and placenta. Vanderbilt University and Washington University are studying these. Babies born by C-section take on the microbiome associated with mom’s skin.
  • Check for excess moisture and mold amplification prior to bringing a newborn home.
  • Owning a dog or other pet can provide protective effects.
  • Biofilm is a layer of microbes, stuck together, that adheres to surfaces. Sarah studied biofilms in forward osmosis and reverse osmosis membranes used to treat water.
  • She is studying the impact of ventilation and cleaning on children of the Cherokee nation. Native Americans have twice the asthma rate of the general population. Using air sampling, elevated dust sampling, ATP, swab sampling, DNA sequencing, ventilation rate measurement, temperature & RH readings, personal interviews and school absentee data; her team has surveyed 50+ homes and 14 schools.
  • The Cherokee Nation don’t live on a reservation, they reside in northeast Oklahoma in a wide variety of housing stock that varies from older mobile homes to high quality new construction. Government regulations prohibit intervention. Northeast Oklahoma is a mixed climate with four seasons.
  • While initially skeptical of ATP, she found that ATP correlates well with measuring microbial cleanliness using other methods. Bacteria is the dominant source of ATP on surfaces tested in the Cherokee Nation study.
  • The microbiome on school desks bounces back 3 days after cleaning. She was shocked by the quantity of skin bacteria and shed skin cell found on desks. Cleaning desks once per semester is not enough.
  • The “spray and wipe” surface cleaning of school desks with 3 different products: all-purpose-cleaner, window cleaner and antibacterial cleaner are being compared.
  • Trying to determine whether microbes are beneficial is a fishing expedition?
  • There are two types of asthma. Asthma can be hereditary or environmental.
  • Some indoor environments can be too clean, recommending we live in symbiosis with the microbiome.
  • Homes quickly take on the microbiome of the occupants. When occupants leave their home the microbiome quickly changes. When occupants return the microbiome quickly bounces back.
  • Hopes to answers to these questions: what is the ideal ventilation rate, what is the ideal cleaning frequency and method for a healthy indoor environment?
  • Seeding homes with probiotics is akin to putting antibiotics in drinking water; it’s not good for everyone. Opined that applied probiotics will likely soon be overwhelmed by resident organisms.

Final comments:

Healthy indoor environments is an interesting and important field of study, keep watching.

Sadly today, RadioJoe publicly bade farewell to Donald Brian Baker, frequent listener, guest and friend of IAQradio. Brian passed away not long after joining IAQradio for one final show that focused on his passion for HVAC and IAQ. A thought shared by Brian’s son:

“To all those that knew my father, and all those my father helped, remember one thing. The best way to remember Donald Brian Baker would be to never forget that we are all in this together. Everything he did in life revolved around that. He believed that every action and every word spoken has an effect. Whether it be the way we carry ourselves in day-to-day life, or the way we approach our teaching methods, or the way we look at codes and regulations; everything we do must be done with thought and care, because the actions we take ultimately affect everyone. In that, we are all responsible for one another.”

Z-Man signing off

IAQradio Trivia Question:

What is the term which defines the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae or animals on wetted surfaces?

Answer:

Biofouling

 

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