Environmental Health

A growing body of research in recent years has shed light on the numerous ways in which human health is inextricably linked to the homes and communities in which we live. In urban areas, outdoor and indoor air pollution, vehicular traffic density, proximity to vacant spaces, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, along with the condition and age of one’s home have are all correlated with significant health disparities. Substandard housing in particular has been linked to increased likelihood of health concerns. Childhood asthma, lead exposure, and cancers have all been shown to be possible negative effects of living in proximity to vacant lots, boarded homes, high-density traffic areas, and in substandard housing. Studies have shown that substandard housing is clearly related to increased likelihood of health concerns and mental health issues. Specific health hazards of substandard housing including: frequent changes of residence (community instability), mold from excessive moisture, exposure to lead, exposure to allergens that may cause or worsen asthma, rodent and insect pests, pesticide residues, and indoor air pollution. Depression and self-perception of health status are higher for those living in areas of extreme poverty. CHCS is addressing these issues through research and community educaiton as well as through partnerships with the Cone Health System and area agencies like the Greensboro Housing Coalition.

Another element impacting health is the the quality of our drinking water. Our public health is at risk from lead in old pipes and drinking fountains; untreated sewage discharge; metals, arsenic, asbestos, and semi-volatile organic compounds leaching from soils of landfills; and alarming levels of synthetic chemicals such as PFOs, PFAs, and GenX in wells and water reservoirs.  We are addressing these issues through community-based participatory research, citizen-science projects, involvement of university students in community outreach, educational programs for children, home based interventions, data analysis, and GIS. The Center for Housing and Community Studies  currently has proposals under review to document PFO/As in well water in northern Guilford County and to examine the neighborhood impact of  urban incinerator waste buried under Bingham Park near  South Buffalo Creek. These projects link to broader issues of housing and neighborhood as they impact the quality of the health of children and families. CHCS seeks to address health disparities, environmental justice, school readiness, and life-course opportunities as they impact the quality of children’s and families health through housing.