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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

2012 August 15

By: Christina Motilall

When I close my eyes and picture the Rocky Mountains one word always comes to mind: Majestic.

That is why it troubles me to know this beautiful landscape (like many around the world) is threatened by air pollution. This pollution can not only harm the environment—it can harm those who live in it. That is why the work of Adam Eisele is crucial.

An environmental engineer for EPA’s Region 8 (Mountains and Plains), Adam researches sources of air toxics and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the area. VOCs are organic compounds (chemical compounds with molecules that contain carbon) that are both natural and man-made. They can affect anything from your eyes to your kidneys, in your home and out of it.

Adam says, “I chose to study air toxics and VOCs because the more I learned about this stuff, the more I realized how dangerous it was to us at certain concentrations.”

Adam Eisele (center) accepting the PECASE award, with EPA Science Advisor Dr. Glenn Paulson (left) and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. John Holdren (right).

Doing work in Bolivia and then Colorado, Adam paints answers with a broad scientific brush, analyzing how these pollutants work at low and high elevations and what effect that may have on human health. Adam explains, “Altitude certainly has an effect on air toxics, causing pollutants to behave a bit differently than we typically see at or near sea level… This all leads to complicated air quality management.  I helped design air monitoring strategies using scarce resources to protect the public by tracking and trending air quality.”

I believe the members of the public that will benefit from Adam’s research and community engagement are far-reaching because not just one type of community is at risk from VOCs and air toxics. Adam said, “It’s tough to ‘see’ air pollution a lot of the time, so I do what I can to make something that’s invisible and potentially harmful visible to the communities that may be affected by it.”

And he is a doing a great job at it. So great that he was one of two EPA scientists recently awarded the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) by President Barack Obama. “Shaking President Obama’s hand, I mentioned I work for EPA, to which he replied ‘Keep up the good work.’ It was pretty incredible.”

I agree with the President. Keep up the good work, Adam; it seems there ain’t no mountain high enough to keep you from protecting human health and the environment.

About the author: Christina Motilall is an intern for the Office of Research and Development’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    August 15, 2012

    “Keep up the good work, Adam”…………

    Your research, I hope, could be inspire the others countries that have mountains near big cities : Symbiosis ‘Parasitism’. For the people, it’s beneficial with property in the mountain who produce air pollution and floods in the city…..!

    • ChristinaEPA permalink
      August 16, 2012

      Arman, thank you for making this interesting point. I think it is great when EPA research becomes beneficial to other nations, especially research that helps protect their citizens.

  2. w harter permalink
    August 15, 2012

    no where in the article did i read about any damage to the majestic rocky mountains. we too have a majestic mountain range – smokey mountains. i have been hicking to the peak – clingman’s dome – since 1944 when i was 7. was up there last month and saw trees dying just as i remember in 1944.

    • ChristinaEPA permalink
      August 16, 2012

      w harter, thanks for the comment. Even though Adam Eisele’s providentially recognized research focuses on human health, these air toxics and VOCs can also affect the environment – including both the majestic Rockies and the glorious Smokey Mountains. If you’d like to learn more about how air pollutants affect our environment and our health, I encourage you to browse this site – http://www.epa.gov/air . Thanks, and enjoy hiking to Clingman’s Dome!

  3. Gerry Martinez permalink
    August 16, 2012

    Nice blog, and congratulations to Adam Eisele!

  4. jane lee wells permalink
    September 24, 2013

    Please let me know what can be done in Glasgow Ky where we have 40 factories in a very small area. Our creeks have heavy metals, and our air is conveniently immeasurable for toxic release inventory updates. The closeset monitor is in Bowling Green 30 miles away. Meanwhile our altitude is well-suited for pollution hovering.
    My homeschool studies its effects, and I can tell you that it is not as healthy as we think. Behaviors are effected by odors as well as their source pollutants, as you know.
    Please tell me how I can help make my Ky family healthier. Mercury creates mercurious behavior, and we have all been affected. Could magnets help?

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