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Team to Identify Best Practices to Prevent Illnesses in the Home

Researchers Get $2.4M to Identify Safe, Healthy Ways to Clean

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The UMass Lowell Safe Home Care Project hopes to identify cleaning options that can properly disinfect homes without increasing the incidence of conditions such as asthma in patients, nurses and health-care aides.


Contacts:  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or or Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell researchers studying how to clean and disinfect living spaces without jeopardizing the health of home-bound patients and health-care workers have received a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute or Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to fund their work.

The UMass Lowell Safe Home Care Project is directed by Gloucester resident Prof. Margaret Quinn of UMass Lowell’s Department of Work Environment. The project hopes to identify cleaning options that can properly disinfect homes without increasing the incidence of conditions such as asthma in patients, nurses and health-care aides. A cross-section of home health-care agencies and industry leaders will be partnering with UMass Lowell on the project.

As more patients are treated for serious illnesses at home, the risk they will develop infections typically found in hospitals and rehabilitation centers increases. This has led to an increased use of cleaning and disinfection products that contain toxic chemicals, harmful substances that can cause asthma and other health issues for home health-care clients, aides and nurses, according to Quinn.

The project aims to identify cleaning options that can eliminate harmful microorganisms in the home while promoting good indoor air quality and preventing respiratory illness.

“Demand for more effective cleaning and disinfecting is growing due to emerging infectious agents and rapidly developing strains of multi-drug resistant organisms,” Quinn said.

These include viruses and bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), which can compromise the health of their caregivers and the community.

“These pathogens and others like them are increasing in hospitals and nursing homes where patients are often more likely to become infected because their immune systems are compromised due to illness or medication. As a result, cleaning and disinfecting is a major part of the daily work of health-care aides when these patients return home,” Quinn said. “At the same time, there is increasing evidence that exposure to cleaning and disinfecting products and practices can result in acute and chronic health effects, particularly asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”

The research will be conducted in the university’s Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. Joining Quinn on the team are Assistant Prof. Nancy Goodyear, a faculty member in UMass Lowell’s Department of Clinical Laboratory and Nutritional Sciences; Associate Prof. Manuel Cifuentes of the Department of Work Environment; and Pia Markkanen and Susan Sama, both research professors.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.