A team of researchers are looking even further into the consistent and growing prevalence of asthma in certain low-income communities in the city.
Matt Perzanowski and his team of researchers at Columbia University are taking filters of collected dust from 350 New York City homes.
"Hopefully, in general, this will help us understand better what types of molds in the home lead to worse health outcomes, and that could come from an event like Hurricane Sandy or just from a leaky building," Perzanowski says.
They're looking to discover where mold fits into the asthma picture, whether it triggers asthma, causes more symptoms to appear or works in conjunction with other environmental factors, increasing the persistence of asthma.
"Mold, it may be causal in all parts of that, in the development of allergy, in the development asthma," Perzanowski says. "We just don't know."
This latest study is being funded through a $720,000 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It builds on a previous work done by the Columbia team, confirming that exposure to cockroaches, mice and pollution contribute to the high rates of asthma in certain NYC neighborhoods.
"We think that those exposures early in life can be important, and that may help to start to explain why asthma prevalence in East Harlem is so much higher than on the Upper East Side," Perzanowski says. "We know that in low-income communities, reporting mold exposure is more common. So we think it could be related to asthma."
The HUD-funded study will focus specifically on the impact on asthmatic children ranging from ages seven to 11, checking in with them over a two-year period.
"It seems that in the neighborhoods with the higher burden of asthma, there's less of asthma symptoms going away in asthmatics," Perzanowski says. "So we're specifically trying to look at that."
In the end, Perzanowski is looking to compile a clearer picture of which environmental factors health officials should hone in on.
"I hope we have a clear idea of what environmental exposures in the home lead to the development of asthma and the persistence of symptoms, and then, we can then ultimately do interventions to reduce those," he says.
The eventual goal is to help thousands of city kids breathe easier.