air pollutants

Science Wednesday: Working With the Best of the Best

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Katie Lubinsky

Two of our very own EPA scientists, Dr. Gayle Hagler and Dr. David Reif, received the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers … and I am working with one of them on various communications projects!

Dr. Gayle Hagler—the award-winning scientist I’m working with—was nominated for leading research in the development and use of new technologies (electric vehicles and GPS) to measure and map air pollutant emissions near roadside locations. Such research also looks at how barriers, like sound walls and vegetation, reduce the distance air pollutants travel from highways to nearby communities.

My work with Dr. Hagler involves developing a video about her near-roadway mobile emission research, interviewing her and her colleagues. As part of that work, I will get to take a ride in the mobile measuring vehicle—a converted, electric-powered PT Cruiser with the air measuring instruments conveniently placed in the back. Along with the video project, Dr. Haglar has worked with me on a writing assignment involving EPA black carbon research.

I can easily say how excited I am about working with such a gifted and well-known scientist. To be around and work with a recipient of such a prestigious award makes me realize the unique experience I am having at the EPA where such innovative and intelligent people work. I believe this is a story I will share with others both now and in the future, and one that will open my eyes to her research and how I’m contributing through public outreach.

Dr. Hagler’s co-honoree is EPA’s Dr. David Reif, who was nominated for his work developing tools for organizing and profiling chemicals for potential toxicity to human health and the environment, as well as studying childhood asthma in order to develop more personalized diagnoses, management and treatments. He is also an active member in the community, teaching at a local university and speaking publically to others about science. Dr. Reif has even blogged here on Science Wednesday!

About the Author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor in communications at the Office of Research and Development in Research Triangle Park.

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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Having a Safe Vacation in the Midst of Air Pollution

By Sarah Bae

My mom works full-time, and has done so for decades. Although she’s nearing 60, and has various health issues stemming from the stress of her work, because I have an 11 year old sister, she says she won’t be retiring anytime soon. Our family has always lived in big cities, and on vacations we go to places like Washington D.C. or New York City – always cities. My mom deserves a relaxing vacation, as does every mom, so it is important to be aware that women are susceptible to multiple environmental health impacts. Be prepared during trips. A big one, strongly associated with congested urban areas like cities, is air pollution.

Air pollutants can come from fine particles, like vehicle exhaust and soot, gases such as ozone and carbon monoxide, smoke from tobacco and stoves, as well as fumes released from the burning of coal, oil, kerosene, everyday household cleaning products and paints. Fine particles, and ozone in particular, are considered the most harmful pollutants.

For older women who may already have health problems, like my mother, exposure to air pollution can be particularly harmful. Air pollution can cause sudden variations or an increase in heart rate for those with cardiovascular problems, which could be a catalyst for conditions leading to a heart attack. For those with a lung disease, air pollution can lead to lung inflammation, difficulty breathing, and aggravation of asthma. Additionally, those with diabetes may also find that their risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems increases.

To avoid or minimize exposure to air pollution, check the Air Quality Index (AQI) daily. The AQI reports on how clean the air is and whether it can affect your health. It recommends to reduce outdoor activity on bad air quality days. More information about the AQI is available. Information about daily air quality can also be obtained through newspaper, television, and radio weather reports. However, staying indoors doesn’t guarantee complete safety from air pollution as fine particles can enter buildings through open windows or doors, and tobacco smoke as well as fumes from cleaning products can concentrate in indoor areas with inadequate ventilation.

For more information

About the author: Sarah Bae is a summer intern for the Office of Public Engagement. She is a rising senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Society and Environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.