The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has selected The University of Tulsa to receive $999,831 to support the further development of a mold classification tool. TU is the only university in Oklahoma selected to receive funding under HUD’s program.
This grant is part of HUD’s $15.7 million awards package to 18 universities, public health and housing organizations to further their studies of housing-related hazards and energy efficiency. “My co-investigators and I are grateful for HUD’s investment in our effort to identify and control a key residential hazard,” said Richard J. Shaughnessy, the grant’s principal investigator and the director of TU’s Indoor Air Program, which is part of the Russell School of Chemical Engineering.
Shaughnessy will also be drawing on the expertise of co-investigators from Yale University; Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO; Apex Environmental in Kansas City, MO; and personnel currently working in the California Department of Health.
The goal of Shaughnessy and his colleagues’ three-year study is to transform 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.
“Dampness and mold are estimated to occur in nearly 50% of U.S. homes, and an estimated 21% of current asthma cases in the U.S. has been linked to damp, moldy homes,” explained Shaughnessy. “If this link is truly causal, then reducing the occurrence of dampness and mold in homes could prevent an important proportion of asthma in this country.”
In addition to the human health improvements, Shaughnessy and his colleagues believe that having a validated tool available for routine use would transform building assessment and remediation. This would be accomplished by providing definitive guidance leading to improved confidence that inspection and remediation can lead to the expected benefits in human health.
The study has three main objectives:
- Determine whether 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
- Explore associations between tool scores with quantitative metrics of observable dampness and moldiness previously correlated with health
- Collect pilot data for planning a future study linking successful mold remediation (assessed by the tool) and improved health among asthmatic children