The University of Utah has awarded six researchers grants to study the consequences of regional air pollution. The seed grants, which total $165,000, are the first to come out of a new cross-disciplinary program focused on air quality.
The U’s Program for Air Quality, Health and Society was started about one year ago, taking a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and addressing the consequences of air pollution. The program’s director Doctor Robert Paine says these new seed grants will help researchers make connections between air quality and individual health.
“If you’re somebody who has lung disease, what happens to you with poor air quality? If you’re someone who is at risk for stiff blood vessels, what happens and how does that change when you’re exposed to the poor air quality? And what happens to the vulnerable population of folks who are pregnant; do we change the outcome of their pregnancy when they’re exposed to increased air pollution?” Paine asks.
Researchers cover a range of health disciplines from pulmonary medicine, to psychiatry to bioinformatics. The grants will fund experiments to assess the impacts of air pollution on babies in utero and those who have heart and lung disease. There are also studies looking at remote monitoring of home air quality, the integration of environmental and clinical data, and the association between exposure to air pollution and suicide. Paine says the studies are meant to develop Utah-specific data.
“The more data we get about the health effects of air pollution, the better we can inform those who are trying to set policy,” Paine says. “If we have a better understanding about the real costs of air pollution, that will make it easier to convince people that we need to change behavior, and also make the cost benefit clearer to us all the time.”
The grants are funded by the University of Utah through the institution’s seed-grant program. The program will be seeking additional funding in the future to expand its operations.