HGTV Personality and Carpenter Carter Oosterhouse, Habitat for Humanity and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America join Merck to Launch Build Smart, Breathe Easier

National asthma education program will build four houses with asthma-healthy features in partnership with families affected by the disease, raise awareness about how a home may contain triggers that can cause asthma symptoms and may lead to flare-ups.

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., May 24, 2011 – More than 24 million Americans currently have asthma. Every day, 11 people in the United States die from asthma and the disease accounts for one-quarter of all emergency room visits each year. For many people with asthma, their home may be part of the problem.

Any house or apartment can contain a variety of asthma “triggers,” which can include allergens and irritants – such as dust mites, mold, pet dander and strong fumes or odors – that can negatively affect someone with asthma. Today, Merck launched Build Smart, Breathe Easier, a national campaign to help people with asthma by highlighting the importance of maintaining an “asthma-healthy home” and educating families about ways to help manage the disease. As part of Build Smart, Breathe Easier, Merck has joined with Habitat for Humanity, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and HGTV personality and carpenter Carter Oosterhouse to build four houses with asthma-healthy features in partnership with low-income families affected by the disease in Metro Atlanta (North Central Georgia), Detroit, Greater Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

“A house built with materials that are easy to clean and less likely to contain irritants, such as hard-surface floors or non-toxic paint, may have a positive impact on a family, especially one dealing with asthma,” said Carter Oosterhouse. “I am excited to be a part of this program which will help build sustainable homes with asthma-friendly features in partnership with low-income families and will also educate about simple ways to try to reduce and avoid common household asthma triggers.”

Four Habitat for Humanity affiliates have identified four families who are affected everyday by asthma. The houses will be constructed and dedicated with the help of volunteers and the partner families, as well as Oosterhouse and volunteer employees from Merck and AAFA. With financial sponsorship from Merck, a global leader in the respiratory health community, the construction of the houses will begin this spring and summer, followed by house dedication ceremonies taking place throughout the year.

“At Habitat for Humanity, our mission is to provide simple, decent and affordable shelter in partnership with low-income families,” said Larry Gluth, senior vice president of U.S. and Canada for Habitat for Humanity. “We are excited to partner on Build Smart, Breathe Easier to complement our mission and help improve the lives of our partnering families.”

Allergens and irritants in a home may impair the health of a person with asthma and can lead to asthma symptoms and flare-ups. While many may consider frequent symptoms or the occurrence of asthma flare-ups a normal part of the disease, it could be a sign that their people with asthma to work with their doctor to determine an appropriate asthma action plan to fit their individual needs.

“There are several ways to minimize some of the most common asthma triggers in a home,” said Mike Tringale, vice president of AAFA. “Whether you are building a new house, outfitting a room or cleaning your apartment, Build Smart, Breathe Easier provides helpful tips that you may want to consider.”

To ensure each house is built with asthma-healthy features, AAFA is providing expert guidance on the integration of specific building techniques, materials and systems based on principles from their asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program. Through the program, AAFA is also providing educational information about asthma, indoor air quality and asthma-healthy homes to help people nationwide try to minimize the impact of asthma on their daily lives. In conjunction, Oosterhouse will lend his expertise for building and outfitting an asthma-healthy home and participate in each of the home builds.

“We are pleased to partner with these experts to build homes with asthma-healthy features and educate about the importance of a healthy indoor environment, coupled with proper asthma management,” said Dr. Gokul Gopalan, regional director of Medical Affairs, Respiratory, Merck. “Build Smart, Breathe Easier reinforces Merck’s ongoing commitment to educate people about their asthma and provide appropriate treatment options to physicians and their patients.”

Learn More and Get Involved
If you, a family member or a friend is suffering from asthma, please visit Build Smart, Breathe Easier at to learn how to reduce exposure to asthma triggers in the home and access tools that can help manage the disease. There, you can also stay up-to-date on the home builds, including information about the families, volunteer opportunities and progress on each of the houses.

About Asthma
Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflammation of the air passages, resulting in the episodic narrowing of the airways. Asthma symptoms can be triggered by allergens or irritants and symptoms can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. With more than 24 million people living with asthma in the United States, it is one of the most common and costly chronic diseases. Annually, this disease leads to almost two million asthma-related emergency room visits and close to 4,000 asthma-related deaths in the United States.

Findings from the Asthma Insight and Management (AIM) survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of asthma in the United States conducted in more than a decade, suggest that there have been limited improvements in certain acute care measures over the past decade. The survey showed that asthma is not well controlled in many people, and they may not have a good understanding of what constitutes well-controlled asthma. The AIM survey was sponsored by Schering Corporation, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, Inc.

Build Smart, Breathe Easier Partners
About Habitat for Humanity International Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 400,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than two million people. For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit

About Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies, and the oldest asthma and allergy patient group in the world. AAFA is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergic diseases through education, advocacy and research. AAFA provides practical information, community based services and support to people through a network of regional chapters, support groups and other local partners around the United States. For more information, visit .

About Carter Oosterhouse
Carter Oosterhouse is an authority in eco-living and one of America’s most recognized lifestyle experts. As host of HGTV’s “Carter Can” and “Red, Hot & Green,” Carter uses his design and carpentry expertise to help homeowners improve their surroundings, often incorporating green building solutions as well as design alternatives that promote healthier living.

The youngest of four children, Carter was born and raised in Traverse City, Mich., where he started acquiring his carpentry skills and respect for the environment at an early age. From Carter’s first television appearance on TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” audiences have adored his down-to-earth personality and craftsman skills. He was voted People magazine’s “Sexiest Man on TV” in 2003 and has also become a go-to home improvement expert for many national media, including Rachael Ray, The Today Show, Oprah and The View.

Carter is also the founder of Carter’s Kids, an organization dedicated to building and developing community parks and playgrounds in low-income areas in an effort to promote healthy living. For more information about Carter, visit .

About Merck
Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit .