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October 16, 2023

smoke stacks polluting the air

Researchers from the NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Science (EHS) Core Center at the University of Washington are collaborating with community partners to measure air pollution, study its health impacts, and test possible solutions to improve air quality. Their research runs the gamut, examining the health effects of air pollution in children and older adults as well as rural and urban populations.

UW EHS Core Center member Lianne Sheppard, Ph.D., found that Seattle area residents who lived in places with higher exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution had a higher incidence of dementia.

Catherine Karr, M.D., Ph.D., a practicing pediatrician, environmental epidemiologist, and UW EHS Core Center member, discovered that air quality in Yakima Valley, a rural agricultural region of Washington State, was contributing to health problems among children with asthma. Working with community partners, she led an intervention study which demonstrated that combining high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters with in-home asthma education programs reduced children’s asthma symptoms and clinical care visits for asthma.

UW EHS Core Center member Elena Austin, Sc.D., found that air pollutants from airplane and roadway traffic infiltrate schools located near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. An intervention study led by Austin showed that HEPA air cleaners significantly improved air quality in classroom environments. This work was funded by the Washington State Legislature. The UW EHS Core Center supported community engagement and messaging of study goals and findings.

According to Center member Michael Yost, Ph.D., community involvement has been foundational to these projects. Community engagement benefits both the scientists’ ability to do high-quality, meaningful research and the community’s power to make positive change. It also means decision makers are more likely to fund interventions.

Read more about these air pollution projects in this news article from the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

Learn about other clean air efforts at this UW EHS Core Center webpage.