AAAR 2010 Speciality conference

OnAir: EPA & Auto Industry Partnership Fills Need for Trusted Science

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) is one of the most respected research organizations in air pollution science.

The Institute was founded in 1980 through an unprecedented partnership between the EPA and the automotive industry. With equal funding from agency and industry (by market share), HEI is in a unique position to provide “high-quality, impartial, and relevant science,” on air pollution health effects, according to their website.

blog_HEI_20100406“HEI began because there was a need for independent science that could be trusted by everyone,” said Dan Greenbaum, HEI’s president.

“What we find is that with industry, EPA, and environmentalists at the table, they are really asking the same scientific questions…even though they may not always want the same answers.”

To maintain objectivity, HEI’s review committees are staffed by participants who are not involved in any advocacy for industry or the environment. The Institute also avoids making regulatory recommendations.
“We don’t make policy here,” Greenbaum said. “We deliver relevant science to the doorsteps of decision-makers so they can do their jobs.”

Greenbaum is known for communicating well across business, environmental, and political realms. He has applied this savvy at the helm of HEI and steered the Institute toward the highest standards of scientific integrity.

“The scientific review process can be a little intense,” Greenbaum admitted, “but it’s so important to have research that is above and beyond reproach.”

Because of the integrity of HEI’s research, their data is often used in important decision-making processes.
In 1997, for example, the EPA reviewed national standards for PM and ozone. To ensure the review incorporated the best-possible information, HEI was asked to reanalyze large datasets from two major air pollution studies.

“They trusted us to treat the data well,” Greenbaum said, “and after tearing it apart and putting it back together again, we confirmed the results and found higher effects of air pollution in people with lower socioeconomic status.”

HEI continues to push the research envelope. Through a new committee, HEI is identifying needed research on the potential health consequences of new fuels and engine technologies.

“We are forecasting a range of new technologies and looking to see whether they could have unintended consequences for public health,” Greenbaum said.

“This is a great example of research to fill gaps in understanding. The key thing we do is listen to what information people need and then do the research to get it.”

For more information, visit: http://www.healtheffects.org/

About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. Her OnAir posts are a regular “Science Wednesday” feature.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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OnAir@AAAR: Ironing out Trace Metal Measurements

Michelle Oakes has developed a new instrument to more accurately measure a dangerous air pollutant: Iron (II).
Oakes, an EPA STAR grantee and scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, presented the new instrument Monday at the 2010 AAAR conference on air pollution and health.

blog_ironII_michelle oakes

Iron (II) is commonly emitted by sources like biomass burning and coal-fired power plants and is associated with the production of harmful reactive oxygen species in the body. Oakes’ device, called a Particle-to-Liquid Sampler, measures the dangerous trace metal significantly better than previous methods ever have.

“People usually use a filter that works over 24 hours to measure Iron (II),” Oakes explained.
“But what we found is that the filters underestimate Iron (II) by a lot.”

She reported that in some cases, the Particle-to-Liquid Sampler measured Iron (II) levels twice as high as those measured by the filters—a very significant difference.

Because the Sampler conducts automated measurements every 12 minutes, it does a better job than 24-hour filters at capturing changes in Iron (II) levels throughout the day.

As wind speeds change, it is common for Iron (II) levels to fluctuate, producing what Oakes calls “transient events,” or periods of time where iron levels oscillate strongly from high to low.

The average daily Iron (II) measurements produced from the filters tend to mask these fluctuations.
Oakes explained that her device and its ability to more accurately reflect Iron (II) variations over time could significantly benefit the public health community.

“From a health standpoint,” Oakes said, “you need something that’s reliable…you want to be able to see the times of day when it’s most dangerous for people to be outdoors.”

But there are additional advantages to the “totally new” device.
“Not only does it do a better job measuring variations, but it’s also much less labor intensive than using filters which require lots of hours and work,” Oakes pointed out.

Once adapted to become more easily deployable, the sampler could potentially help States measure trace metals more easily.
Oakes presented the work during Monday’s AAAR poster session and seemed pleased to share the new technology.
“I really enjoy working on this,” Oakes said smiling, “it’s a way to do chemistry, be outdoors, and make an impact.”

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About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. Her OnAir posts are a regular “Science Wednesday” feature.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

“OnAir@AAAR: Reporting on EPA Science from the 2010 Specialty Conference”

AAAR_introNext week, I’ll have the exciting opportunity to spend time amongst the best and brightest air pollution scientists in the world at the 2010 AAAR “Air Pollution and Health” specialty conference in San Diego.

The conference is co-sponsored by EPA and this year the theme is “bridging the gap from sources to health outcomes”, a topic relevant to protecting human health both within the U.S. and abroad.

According to the conference website, I can expect to find “rigorous debates,” “state-of-the-art products” and “the latest information on linking adverse health effects of air pollution to emissions sources and atmospheric pollutants.”

During my 5 days navigating a sea of posters, talks, panels, and vendor fairs, I will plan to share daily photos and posts on the exciting EPA-relevant science I encounter. This is a unique opportunity to communicate up-to-the-minute information on science that is happening now.

Hot topics to look out for:

  1. Cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes as air pollution risk factors: What underlying health problems put you at higher risk?
  2. Mortality and long-term particle exposure: Can pollution exposure lead to an earlier death?
  3. Genetics and air pollution: Is our capacity to deal with air pollution written in our DNA?
  4. Multi-pollutants: How can scientists study particle mixtures that contain hundreds of chemicals?
  5. Atmospheric transport and transformation: What happens to pollutants once they are in the air?
  6. Successes and challenges: Have actions to improve air quality been successful? Have there been unintended consequences?

Stay tuned…

About the Author: Becky Fried is a student contractor with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, part of the Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.