EPA Awards Clean Air Research Center Grant to Georgia Tech, Emory

The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has awarded a five-year grant of $8 million to the Georgia
Institute of Technology and Emory to create one of four national Clean Air
Research Centers addressing the public health impacts of air pollution. The new
centers were announced today at the Society of Toxicology meeting in Washington,
D.C.

The Georgia Tech/Emory
center, named the Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology (SCAPE),
will characterize ambient air pollution mixtures and determine their specific role
in human health risks, using new measurement and modeling approaches. The
overall goal of the center is to contribute to improved management of air
quality for the benefit of human health in the United States.

Air quality engineers and
scientists from Georgia Tech will develop and apply detailed measurements and
new modeling techniques to identify and track atmospheric contaminants and
mixtures of these contaminants suspected of having adverse health effects.

Researchers at Emory’s
Rollins School of Public Health will analyze data linking air quality with
health endpoints in children and adults, including birth outcomes, asthma and
cardiac illness.

Together, researchers will
characterize pollution mixtures based on mechanism of action and sources of
pollutants in studies ranging from micro-scale assessments to comparisons of
cities across the nation. A particular focus will be
studying the health effects of mixtures of pollutants in the atmosphere to
which people are realistically exposed.

The center will be co-directed
by Armistead (Ted) Russell, Georgia Power Distinguished Professor in the School of Civil
and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Paige Tolbert, professor
and chair of environmental health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

“This center is the
culmination of a ten-year collaboration between Emory and Georgia Tech on air
pollution research,” says Russell. “By coalescing into a center, we can take
this work to a new level – the integrated and trans-disciplinary research will
lead to more effective methods for protecting the public from the harmful
effects of air pollution.”

Researchers
in the new center will work on four interrelated projects.

Project 1:
The SCAPE team will develop and deploy new instrumentation to measure oxidants
and other pollutants suspected of causing adverse health effects. The project
will focus on how these pollutants are generated, transformed and distributed,
and will characterize ambient air pollution for the three health studies. 

Project 2:
As commuting times and congestion increase, there is growing concern about the health
effects of traffic emissions. Emory and Georgia Tech researchers will conduct
an intensive study of commuters in the metro Atlanta area to examine exposure
to complex particulate mixtures during auto commuting and mechanisms of acute
cardiorespiratory outcomes. The study will be among the first to measure
several highly sensitive, non-invasive biomarkers of oxidative stress in
relation to air pollution exposure. 

Project 3:
This project will focus on consequences of early-life exposures on the health
of children. Researchers will study two birth cohorts to assess whether air
pollution mixtures during pregnancy increase risk for preterm delivery or
reduced birth weight, whether children born prematurely are more sensitive to
ambient air pollution, and whether air pollution exposures in the first year of
life put children at greater risk of developing asthma. 

Project 4:
Researchers will study air quality and acute health outcomes in five U.S.
cities. The goal is to understand how differences in the mix of air pollutants,
weather, population susceptibility and other factors explain differences in the
association between air pollution and cardiac and respiratory illness across
the cities. The results will clarify the combined impact of these factors on
acute cardiorespiratory morbidity across the United States.

“Using novel approaches to characterize air
quality and exciting new ways to assess health endpoints, we hope to make major
breakthroughs in understanding health effects of ambient air pollution,” says
Tolbert. “Specifically, we anticipate that we’ll achieve insights into what aspects
of the air pollution mixture are most harmful and how the pollutants act
together, information that can be directly used to target control measures to
most effectively protect the public’s health.”

The center will focus on important scientific questions remaining in air research, says Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

“These centers are
critical to understanding how to improve air quality and protect Americans’
health from complex mixtures of air pollutants,” Anastas says.

Contact: 

Georgia Tech Media Relations
Laura Diamond
laura.diamond@comm.gatech.edu
404-894-6016
Jason Maderer
maderer@gatech.edu
404-660-2926

Holly
Korschun, Emory Health Science News, hkorsch@emory.edu,
404-727-3990

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