clean air research

Learn About Your Environment with Science Bite Podcasts

By Jocelyn Buckley

I know you’re really busy. I know that as much as you want to stay updated on the latest news, you just don’t have the time to sit down and read a newspaper. We want to make it easier for you to stay informed about some pretty cool science that is protecting your health and environment. Instead of downloading the latest Maroon 5 song, you should check out EPA’s “Science Bite” podcast. While each episode is only about three minutes long, they provide a healthy dose of research news.

Science Bite graphic identifier: illustration of globe with headphones“Science Bite” explores the research conducted by some very dedicated EPA scientists and engineers to protect air quality, prepare for climate change impacts on human health and ecosystems, and make energy decisions for a sustainable world. Researchers talk about their work and why it is important.  I had the privilege of meeting some of these researchers while helping write the most recent podcast, and I have never met such passionate, intelligent people.

I found out a lot about environmental issues and interesting facts by listening to these podcasts. Here’s a quick sampling of my three favorites (there are more):

  • July’s episode focused on the dangers of cookstoves fueled on wood, charcoal and other traditional fuels, and how they affect the health of many, many people around the world as a result of their indoor emissions.
  • In May’s “Science Bite,” EPA researchers talked about the Village Green Project, and how this state-of-the-art park bench can measure air pollution.
  • The most recent podcast discusses wildfire emissions. Who knew that there are many more things to consider besides your lungs? Researcher Ian Gilmour talked a little bit about his experience with the 2008 study of a peat fire in Eastern North Carolina.

Science-Bite1So, if you’re driving to work or eating breakfast, spare a couple of minutes to hear what’s going on in your environment. Go to www2.epa.gov/research/science-bite-podcasts for more information.

About the Author: Jocelyn Buckley was a student intern in EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program this summer. She will graduate from high school next year, and hopes to pursue environmental policy and journalism.

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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A New Frontier for Air Sensors 2014

By Dustin Renwick

palm-sized air quality sensor

Compact air quality sensor fits in the palm of your hand.

The wearable market has expanded its product line—from smart glasses and smart watches to dozens of different fitness tracker wristbands and T-shirts that interact with the world around you.

What you don’t see in these gadgets is the tiny technologies that make it possible for your T-shirt to light up or for you to tap your wrist and see how many calories you’ve burned.

Similar to how computers shrunk from the size of rooms to the size of your front pocket, sensors have also been developed in ever decreasing dimensions.

One of the major applications for EPA: sensors that measure air quality. Agency researchers and others can use these portable, real-time sensors in the environment to gain a more intricate picture of what’s happening in our communities.

We’ve hosted a competition won by a design for a wearable sensor that estimates a person’s exposure to air pollution. EPA grants fund broad cookstove research, some of which includes the use of air sensors to measure pollution from indoor cookstoves.

Last fall, EPA collaborators published a seminal paper on the sensor revolution in a top journal, Environmental Science & Technology. The journal received more than 5,400 submissions in 2013 on a variety of topics, and EPA’s research won first runner-up for best feature paper.

One of the most important parts of this field of study is the diversity of people interested in the work.

Next week, we’ll hold an air sensors workshop to spark more discussions and continue this important work advancing innovative air sensor technologies by bringing together scientists, policy experts, technology developers, data analysts, and leaders from government, industry, and community groups.

To learn more about the opportunities and challenges that air sensors present, register for the webcast of our workshop on June 9-10.

We’ll live tweet the event from @EPAresearch using #AirSensors.

About the author: Dustin Renwick works as part of the innovation team in the EPA 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.

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EPA Study Shows Poverty Is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Every day EPA researchers are advancing our understanding of how air pollution threatens heart health. We will be sharing some of the important studies under way and research discoveries during February in recognition of American Heart Month.

Healthy Heart graphic identifier

By Ann Brown

In 2008, lightening started a peat bog wildfire in eastern North Carolina. Dry peat is an organic material that makes a perfect fuel for fire. For weeks the fire smoldered, blanketing communities in 44 rural counties with toxic air pollutants that exceeded EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards at times. As a result, many people went to the emergency department with congestive heart failure, asthma and other health problems from smoke exposure as documented in an EPA study.

The wildfire provided a unique opportunity for researchers to evaluate the reasons behind the heart and respiratory problems caused from smoke exposure. They were interested in whether there are community characteristics than can be used to identify residents whose health might be at risk from wildfires or other sources of air pollution. What exactly did the communities along the Coastal Plain of North Carolina have in common?

Researchers analyzed daily rates of visits to the emergency departments during the fire event and community health factors such as access and quality of clinical care, health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and the characteristics of the physical environment. The findings, published in Environmental Health, indicate low socio-economic status alone can be used to determine if a community is at risk for congestive heart failure or other health problems observed. Low socio-economic status is a term used to describe a group of factors such as low income, inadequate education and safety concerns.

While the knowledge that people in poverty are at greater health risk from air pollution is not new, this study provides scientific evidence that a community’s socio-economic status can be used to identify those at greatest risk from air pollution. This is good news for the public health community and others interested in reaching people with heart or lung diseases who may be at risk of air pollution. This study and others being conducted across the country by epidemiologists are helping to find ways to address health problems in communities. 

About the Author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Tweet! Tweet!
Remember to join us for a Twitter Chat with EPA research cardiologist Dr. Wayne Cascio tomorrow, February 20, at 2:30 pm. Follow #HealthyHeart or @EPAlive.

Be Smart, Protect Your Heart from Air Pollution

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

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.