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August 22, 2014
Susan B Cole 315 464-6547

Upstate researchers report on air quality concerns for at-risk adults

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— The air we breathe can have a profound effect on our overall health, which is why air quality is regulated outdoors, in public works and in commercial housing like skilled nursing facilities.

For private residences, air quality is not regulated or monitored after construction certification, but exposure to poor air quality could cause health problems. This may be especially important for older adults with diabetes and other chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease dyslipidemia, obesity and lung disease, a population that spends most of its time indoors. Researchers at Upstate Medical University explored this topic in a study, Poor Air Quality in Homes of Medicare Recipients With Diabetes, published in Home Healthcare Nurse in May 2014.

“The aging population can be indoors for 80 to 90 percent of the day, and may have enhanced susceptibility to adverse effects from, for example, elevated levels of particulate matter in the air,” said Upstate’s Ruth S. Weinstock, M.D., Ph.D., one of the researchers on the project. “It’s crucial as we care for these individuals, to consider the safety of their home environment, including  air quality.”

This was an ancillary study of the Informatics for Diabetes Education and Telemedicine (IDEATel) project. Volunteers included 154 Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes living in underserved areas of upstate New York participating in IDEATel. Home air quality assessments, concern for air conditions and associations with comorbid medical conditions were reported.

The researchers found that many older adults with diabetes, living in underserved, rural communities are exposed to contaminants in the air of which they are not aware. Clinicians may want to assist these individuals by educating them about how they can reduce this and improve the air quality within the home.

Some factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality include:


Indoor combustion (improperly vented fuel-burning stoves, heaters, dryers or fireplaces).

Upwind traffic and diesel generators.

Improper storage of household chemicals and volatile compounds like paint or varnishes.

To improve air quality, residents should:

Increase ventilation to bring more fresh air into the home.

Use an indoor air filter and reduce exposure to contaminants.

Change filters in heaters and air conditioners regularly.

Avoid high humidity.

The authors of the study are Philip C. Morin, M.S., Paula F. Rosenbaum, Ph.D., Jerrold Abraham, M.D., and Ruth S. Weinstock, MD, PhD. To read the full study, visit Home Healthcare Nurse.

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