Child Health Community TCEEE

Examining the Impact of Air Pollution and Stress on Sleep Inequities in East Harlem Children: A Community-Engaged Pilot Project

A new study will examine the relationship between the built environment, community spread, and the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 within school settings

A new study will examine the potential relationships between indoor air quality, stress, and sleep in Latinx children, age 6-7 years old, living in East Harlem


Low-income communities of color such as East Harlem in New York City have some of the highest mortality and morbidity rates in the city and state. Studies also show disparities in sleep quality and quantity across racial and ethnic groups, with urban communities of color experiencing shorter sleep quantity, more sleep disordered breathing, and more disrupted sleep.  Children are particularly at risk to the impacts of poor sleep which can exacerbate health conditions, impair learning, and lead to lost days at school. Health inequities in children contribute to a 30% elementary school absenteeism rate in East Harlem, the highest in New York City. 

Recent studies find an association between exposure to air pollution during the prenatal period and poorer sleep in childhood, yet little is known about the relationship between air quality and sleep among children, particularly within the larger context of household and psychosocial conditions. To address this knowledge gap, Terry Thompson, DHA, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow mentored by Robert Wright, MD, MPH was awarded a pilot project grant from the Transdisciplinary Center for Early Environmental Exposures (TCEEE) to examine potential relationships between indoor air quality, stress, and sleep in Latinx children, age 6-7 years old, living in East Harlem.

Children are particularly at risk to the impacts of poor sleep which can exacerbate health conditions, impair learning, and lead to lost days at school. Health inequities in children contribute to a 30% elementary school absenteeism rate in East Harlem, the highest in New York City. 

Dr. Terry Thompson

Working together with Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSAFHS), a non-profit community organization that provides a wide range of services to East Harlem families in need and a member of the TCEEE Stakeholder Advisory Board, Dr. Thompson will examine the association between air quality, stress, and child sleep using Actigraph watches, indoor air monitors, sleep diaries, and parent surveys. Working closely with community advisors, the study team will create reports for participants outlining study findings and steps they can take to improve both indoor air quality and child sleep. Reports will be tailored to community needs and health literacy levels and educational resources adapted from existing materials from the Institute for Exposomics Research and the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) with the goal of helping families create healthier home environments for optimal child health and well-being. Dr. Thompson’s findings from this pilot will be used to inform career development awards and to secure funding for expansion to additional populations.

Co-Investigators include Maida Galvez, MD, MPH; Robert O. Wright, MD, MPH; Sarah Evans, PHD, MPH; Leon Hsu, ScD; Luz Guel, BA, BS,  and Ray Lopez of LSAFHS.