BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—A grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow researchers from Indiana University to better understand how indoor exposure to environmental contaminants affects the health of older adults who live or spend substantial time in senior care facilities.
The $435,875 grant will be led by O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs scientist Amina Salamova, who will collaborate with the School of Public Health’s Michael Hendryx and the School of Nursing’s Pei-Shiun Chang.
“The population of older adults in Indiana and all over the country is growing, and as many seniors opt to live in senior care, it is important to understand the environmental exposures in this setting,” Salamova said.
The two-year study will recruit 100 residents from 10 Indiana senior care facilities as study participants. Scientists will examine indoor exposures to a group of chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) through air and dust sampling in participants’ rooms. “Persistent organic pollutants include a large group of chemicals that are generally used in many consumer products,” Salamova said. They include flame retardant chemicals used in plastics and foam, fluorinated chemicals used for stain and water protection, pesticides for indoor insect control, and cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. Participants will also wear silicone wristbands as innovative, non-invasive samplers of personal exposures to POPs. They will also provide nail clippings for the analyses of biological markers of these pollutants.
“Because of their widespread use, many of these chemicals have become ubiquitous in the environment and people are nearly universally exposed,” Salamova said. “Low-level chronic exposures to a range of these chemicals have been linked with obesity, and thyroid, reproductive, and neurological disorders.”
Examining the long-term risks from exposure to persistent organic pollutants will help senior care facilities better develop and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate them. The researchers noted that senior care facilities remain a significantly understudied environment, with senior citizens representing a particularly vulnerable population.
“The information we gain will provide an essential foundation for subsequent applications to investigate and reduce risks associated with exposure to POPs through further studies,” Salamova said.
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington
The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2020 list of “Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs” by U.S. News and World Report, the school ranks first in the country. Five of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including the No. 1 nonprofit management program.