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ARRA Investments in Air Pollution Health Effects

Public Health Burden
Air Pollution contains harmful gases, small particles and particulates both from natural (wild fires) and manufactured (car emissions, factories) sources. The health risks of air pollution include defective lung development and function and a rise in heart attacks.  These risks are dependent on the quality of the air we breathe, the amount of air we breathe in a given time period, and our overall general health.   Although air quality has improved in recent years, children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

Biological Markers of Exposure Response
Since air pollution is composed of a large number of chemical mixtures, new research is directed at examining specific biological effects of substances of concern in air pollution by:
  • Developing a new marker of diesel exhaust induced oxidative stress, and studying whether exhaust particle levels are associated with asthma severity and the burden of allergic disease. This is important because diesel is a major fuel used by trucks and exposure to truck traffic has been shown to be associated with asthma and allergy in children.1
  • Investigating whether inflammation, oxidative stress and, endothelial (cells that line interior of blood vessels) dysfunction caused by second-hand smoke are intensified by obesity and affect vascular function in children by measuring circulating levels of endothelial progenitor cells (EPC).2
Basic Research
Currently, the way air pollution triggers heart and lung disease is not well understood.  Several ARRA funded grants are examining how environmental exposures to air pollutants impact the cardiopulmonary system. Scientists are studying how:
  • Particulate matter from air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs that can lead to respiratory distress.3
  • Ozone (a gaseous form of air pollution) affects lung function and the body’s defense system against infection.4
  • Age and sex may affect susceptibility to air pollution. By using mice as models, researchers will investigate the differences between air pollution caused by combustion byproducts compared to biodiesel. This project will expand our understanding of how air pollution affects the inflammation that leads to common forms of lung and heart disease.5
  • Vitamin A, referred to as retinoic acid, may reduce the adverse effects of tobacco-smoke on lung development. Scientists will test this strategy using mice as models.6
Refinement of Exposure Estimate
Early studies of the health effects of air pollution relied on exposure data from existing regional air monitors systems used by the Environmental Protection Agency or smaller community level monitoring systems to estimate personal exposures based on residential location and in-home sources. New grants funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) are trying to improve the accuracy of person-specific exposure estimates by incorporating new technologies and environmental sampling methods. Two of these projects are described below:
  • Further improvements of the Pre-Toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robotic (PIPER) Sampler, a robot capable of mimicking young children’s floor activities that collects estimates of their exposure to indoor air pollutants (particulate matter, pesticides, allergens, endotoxins and airborne fungi).7
  • Add air samplers inside the homes of residents enrolled in a randomized trial of cook stove replacement to assist in the reduction of indoor smoke exposure. New samplers will measure common area, bedroom and ambient air quality to provide estimate of change in air quality before and after replacement of cook-stoves.8

  1. 3R21ES016379-02S1 -- Exposure to mobile source air pollution and adverse birth outcomes in the LA Air Basin, WU, JUN (CA)
  2. 1R21ES016883-01A1 -- Vascular toxicities of environmental tobacco particulates in children BAUER, JOHN & GRONER JUDITH (OH)
  3. 1RC1ES018505-01 -- Effects of ozone exposure on expression and function of surfactant D -- Hacku, Angela (PA)
  4. 1RC1ES018053-01 -- Mechanisms of cardiovascular effects of air pollutants: Effects of age and sex. -- Fukagawa, Naomi (VT)
  5. 1R01ES017431-01 -- TRP channels and air pollution -- Reilly, Christopher (UT)
  6. 1R03ES016399-01 -- Maternal smoking and developing lung- Hailey, Kathaleen (MA)
  7. 3R01ES014717-03S1 -- Characterization of Floor Level Aerosol (PM) Exposure and Childhood Asthma SHALAT, STUART LLOYD (NJ)
  8. 3R01ES016336-02S1 -- Indoor Wood Smoke and Asthma : a randomized trial, NOONAN, CURTIS & WARD, ANTHONY (MT)

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