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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News July 2015

Volume 6, Issue 7: July 2015

PEPH E-News Header

Researchers Recruit City Cyclists to Wear Personal Exposure Monitors in Air Pollution Study

Jack Darby

Darby Jack, co-PI on the project, takes the monitors for a test ride as he bikes through NYC streets.
(Photo courtesy of Isaak Liptzin / WNYC)

Sensor development and community engagement are important topics when it comes to understanding personal exposures. Researchers and engineers have been striving to develop the best sensors possible to address both environmental health research questions and community concerns. At Columbia University, researchers are reaching out to the cycling community to better understand how much air pollution New York City (NYC) cyclists are exposed to and how this exposure affects cardiovascular health. Ultimately, the study aims to equip urban planners with tools for developing healthy biking infrastructure.

While urban biking has many benefits, such as exercise and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, city dwellers who choose biking over other modes of transportation may experience high exposure to air pollution. “You breathe at very different rates when you are at rest compared to periods of moderate to heavy exercise,” explained Darby Jack, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University and co-PI on the project. “Because exercising increases the volume of air we breathe, this affects the inhaled dose of pollution, or how much pollution you actually draw into your lungs.”

Steven Chillrud, Ph.D., a Lamont Research Professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the other co-PI on the project, added that “for urban athletes these time periods of moderate to heavy exertion can be done in close proximity to traffic emissions, providing two different multipliers that can greatly vary exposure.” This study is taking advantage of miniaturized electronics to measure or estimate both air pollution levels and the volumetric respiration rate each minute. Multiplying the pollution concentration by the volumetric respiration rate provides an estimate of the inhaled dose of air pollution a person is breathing in each minute.

The project is enlisting NYC cyclists to wear personal exposure monitors as they ride their bikes through the city. Their participation will help to test and validate an air pollution monitor as a reliable tool capable of generating high quality data that is also easy to use in a real-world setting. One of the air pollution monitors, developed by RTI International as part of the NIEHS Gene-Environment Initiative, measures minute-by-minute concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) together with estimates of the volumetric respiration rate based on an accelerometer. In addition, the combined sensor package the bikers will be wearing has two additional methods for estimating the volumetric respiration rate. All three methods will be compared to lab-based measurements of oxygen consumption and volumetric respiration rates, allowing the study to provide insight on both the feasibility and accuracy of a range of methods for estimating the variation in inhaled dose of air pollution. In addition to the air pollution monitors, the cyclists will wear a special shirt that monitors heart rate and other parameters and an automatic blood pressure cuff. Each biker will wear the equipment for five 24-hour periods, each of which will include morning and potentially evening bike commutes.

A major challenge in developing personal exposure monitoring tools is the transition from a controlled lab setting to a real-word scenario. It is essential that the tool is easy to use, reliable under real-world conditions, and poses a minimal burden on users. By recruiting community members to wear the monitors during their normal day-to-day activities, the researchers will gain direct feedback on the monitors’ usability. According to Dr. Jack, engaging with the community is a core aspect of the study. “We need committed study participants who will help us design sensor systems,” he said, “people who are willing to carry our sensors as they ride, and who will give us unvarnished feedback on their comfort.”

The researchers are partnering with WNYC, the nation’s largest public radio station, to help raise awareness about the study and to engage the cycling community. Additionally, WNYC will engage the larger public on air pollution, citizen science, and biking issues throughout the multi-year study, including the final report of any health findings at the end of the study. “Working with WNYC gives us the opportunity to share the results of our work with a larger community of New Yorkers who are concerned about air pollution,” said Dr. Jack.

Do you live in NYC and ride your bike to work? Visit the Columbia University Web page  to learn more about the study! You can also listen to the new PEPH podcast, Air Quality Monitoring for Citizen Science, to learn more about the potential benefits and limitations of next-generation air quality monitors.

NIEHS Virtual Forum: Near Roadway Pollution and Health

NIEHS will host a virtual forum on near roadway pollution and health on Friday, July 10. Exposure to air pollution is widely recognized as a contributor to adverse health outcomes. In the last five years, the international research community has had a greater focus on the role and effects of near roadway pollution on human health. In this virtual forum, we will hear from scientists who have been actively involved in understanding the relationship between exposure to near roadway pollution and human health. The event will be webcast live from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EDT and will feature a panel of air pollution experts who will take questions. Visit the NIEHS Web page to register for the forum and to submit a question for the panelists. You can also submit questions via Twitter @NIEHS using the hashtag #RoadwayAir.

Climate Change and Children’s Health Policy Roundup – Share Your Story!

The President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children wants to hear what you are doing in the form of policy actions and programs to protect children’s health against the impacts of climate change. The Task Force is gathering these examples of policy actions at the Federal, State, Local, and Tribal levels to highlight during Children’s Health Month in October. Any member of the public is welcome to submit. Compelling stories will be featured on the Task Force website, highlighted at an event during Children’s Health Month, and disseminated across the community of practice to raise awareness, share what’s working, and encourage others to adopt similar policies. See the NIEHS website for submission guidelines and example stories and to submit your own story. The deadline for submission is July 10, 2015.

UA SRP Develops Bulletins for Arizona Well Owners

The University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center teamed up with the UA Cooperative Extension to publish a bulletin, How to Lower the Levels of Arsenic in Well Water: What Choices do Arizona Consumers Have? The peer-reviewed bulletin provides readers with an overview of arsenic in well water and discusses home water treatment options. This bulletin meets a critical information need in Arizona, where naturally high levels of groundwater arsenic are found in many areas. Expanding on the popular two-page factsheet, Arsenic in drinking water: what you need to know, the new 10-page bulletin weighs the pros and cons of popular treatments, based on water use needs and water quality parameters. See the UA SRP Center website for more information.

EPA’s Fact Sheet Series on Aging Offers Tips to Stay Healthy This Summer

As the summer begins, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is excited to share its aging resources fact sheet series, which includes easy-to-read materials for caregivers regarding a range of environmental health issues related to the aging population. As we age, our bodies are more susceptible to hazards from the environment, which may worsen chronic or life-threatening conditions. The fact sheets are filled with information older persons can use to protect their health, such as how to stay safe during a heat wave or how to find out about the air quality where you live and how knowing about the air quality could help prevent an asthma or heart attack. In addition, the fact sheets have been translated into 17 languages, and a “purple series” was created for audiences with limited reading ability. Visit the EPA's Fact Sheets on Aging and download them for free. You can also order hard copies using the online order form.

PEPH Grantee Highlights

Catherine Karr, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician scientist interested in better understanding the connection between environmental exposures and children’s health among agricultural communities in Washington State. Currently, Karr leads the new Home Air in Agriculture – Pediatric Intervention Trial, which seeks to address the problem of indoor air pollution in a low-income agricultural community. Karr also serves as director of the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, based at the University of Washington. In this role, she speaks at clinical sites throughout the Northwest region to help connect research with everyday clinical practice. Read the Catherine Karr Grantee Highlight  to learn more about her efforts to bridge environmental health and pediatrics!

Daniel Madrigal, M.P.H., has long been interested in health communication. For five years, he worked as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH), where he primarily focused on delivering understandable and contextually appropriate messages to surrounding Latino farmworker communities. In March 2015, Madrigal left CERCH to begin working as a health educator for the California Environmental Health Tracking Program. In his new position, he will continue developing ways to make environmental health information accessible and practical for the residents of California. Read the Daniel Madrigal Grantee Highlight to learn more about his efforts to communicate important environmental health messages!

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

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About 10 to 15 percent of couples experience trouble getting pregnant. In our latest podcast, The Environment’s Role in Infertility, Harvard University researcher Russ Hauser, M.D., explains current research focusing on how environmental chemicals, metals, and other factors might contribute to infertility in both men and women.

You can find more podcasts on the Environmental Health Chat Web page or subscribe to the series on iTunes. We want your feedback! Send comments and ideas for future podcasts to

PEPH in the Environmental Factor

The latest issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor features several stories highlighting our PEPH colleagues, as well as other topics of interest to the PEPH community. Take a moment to catch up with some of the latest projects, events, and activities happening in the PEPH network:

Birnbaum joins community leaders at forum in Brooklyn. A tour and forum featured Birnbaum in dialogue with community members and leaders regarding environmental health concerns in Brooklyn.

NC State and UC Davis join NIEHS environmental health sciences research centers. New research centers at North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) join more than 20 NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Science Core Centers around the country working at the cutting edge of environmental health research and fostering community engagement.

Grantees Hricko, Froines, and Gottlieb honored, set to retire. On June 6, the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) recognized NIEHS grantees Andrea Hricko, John Froines, Ph.D., and Robert Gottlieb for their commitment to environmental justice and community engagement. All three are transitioning into retirement from academic careers.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Meetings

July 13 - 15, 2015: National Environmental Health Association Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition (NEHA AEC) in Orlando, Florida.

August 4 - 6, 2015: 2015 U.S. EPA Community Involvement Training Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This conference brings together people from EPA as well as the Agency’s partners and stakeholders who plan and implement environmental community involvement, partnership, stewardship, outreach, and education programs. The theme of this year's conference is “Making a Visible Difference in Communities.” Register to attend the conference in person or to view the online streaming sessions.

August 10 - 13, 2015: 16th International Conference of the Pacific Basin Consortium (PBC) in Depok, Indonesia. Traditional areas covered by PBC conferences include hazardous waste management and remediation, e-waste, air pollution, persistent toxic substances, emerging pollutants, global climate change, and children’s environmental health. Registration is open.

August 11 - 13, 2015: 2015 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by the National Public Health Information Coalition, this conference will bring together individuals representing academia, public health researchers, and practitioners from federal and state government, as well as the private sector. The conference is an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues and shape the future of health communication, marketing, and media practice. Registration is open.

August 24 - 26, 2015: 2015 National Conference on Health Statistics (NCHS)  in North Bethesda, Maryland. NCHS will include a one-day Learning Institute where participants will receive hands-on training in accessing and analyzing survey data and will explore learning modules on how to use selected data access tools. The Learning Institute will be followed by the two-day main conference, which will include scientific sessions, exhibits, and a poster session. NCHS is free to attend. Sessions fill up quickly, so register early!

September 10 - 11, 2015: Reimagining Health in Cities: New Directions in Urban Health Research in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This symposium, hosted by the Drexel University School of Public Health, will bring together researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to reflect critically on the links between urban environments and health, identify new opportunities for research (including novel data and methodological approaches), and consider implications for community action and policy. Register by July 31 to receive an early-bird discount.

October 12 - 14, 2015: Pathways into Health Conference - Achieving Excellence, Harmony, and Balance in Seattle, Washington. The purpose of this conference is to bring together a diverse group of individuals and organizations to contribute to the cultivation of a robust American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) healthcare workforce. The year’s theme, “Uniting and Sustaining Pathways into Health Professions,” explores opportunities to unite, enhance, and sustain new and existing pathways into health professions for AI/AN individuals and communities.

October 18 - 22, 2015: International Society for Exposure Science (ISES) in Henderson, Nevada. The theme of the 25th Annual ISES Meeting is “Exposures in an Evolving Environment.” Registration is open.

October 31 - November 4, 2015: American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. This year’s meeting theme is “Health in All Policies.” Registration is now open.

November 2 - 3, 2015: 7th Annual Health Literacy Research Conference (HARC) in Bethesda, Maryland. The HARC is an interdisciplinary meeting for investigators dedicated to health literacy research. Submit a presentation abstract by July 2, 2015. Early-bird registration opens July 2, 2015.

November 9 - 10, 2015: 2015 Community Indicators Consortium Impact Summit in Austin, Texas. The Impact Summit is the premier gathering for those involved in the field of community measurement. The conference will highlight successes, tools, and how to use data to build equitable communities. Presentations are grouped to highlight specific subjects, such as community development and housing, education, health, sustainability, as well as a more general cross-cutting category. Registration  is open. Preconference workshops are also being offered on November 8 for an additional fee.

November 12, 2015: Social, Behavioral, and Educational Research Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. This one-day conference is designed to help build and strengthen effective human subject protections programs that oversee social, behavioral, and educational research. Registration is now open.

Funding Opportunities

Visit the PEPH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) page for more PEPH-related funding opportunities.

Disaster Health Information Outreach and Collaboration Project 2015. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is soliciting proposals from organizations and libraries to design and conduct projects that will improve disaster medicine and public health information access for health professionals, first responders, and others who play a role in health-related disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Deadline: July 6, 2015. Also be sure to check out the Disaster Research Response website, which offers disaster response tools, resources, training materials, and more!

NLM Administrative Supplements for Informationist Services in NIH-funded Research Projects (Admin Supp). These administrative supplements provide funds to active awards of participating Institutes and Centers in order to enhance the storage, organization, management and use of electronic research data through the involvement of informationists, also known as in-context information specialists. Deadline: July 17, 2015.

Advancing Health Disparities Interventions through Community-Based Participatory Research (U01). The purpose of this FOA is to support promising community interventions using community-based participatory research principles and approaches aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating health disparities. A Notice of Change in Key Dates (NOT-MD-15-012 ) was released in mid-June. Deadlines : July 18, 2015 (letter of intent); August 18, 2015 (application).

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Evidence for Action: Investigator-Initiated Research to Build a Culture of Health.. This program aims to provide individuals, organizations, communities, policymakers, and researchers the empirical evidence needed to address the key determinants of health encompassed in the Culture of Health Action Framework. Applicants must be either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. An informational webinar  is scheduled for July 22 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. EDT; registration is required. Deadlines: Applications accepted on a rolling basis, see the RWJF Web page for key dates.

Understanding and Promoting Health Literacy (R01, R03, R21). The goal of this program announcement is to encourage methodological, intervention, and dissemination research for understanding and promoting health literacy. Deadlines: October 5, 2015 (R01); October 16, 2015 (R03, R21).

Addressing Health Disparities in Maternal and Child Health through Community-Based Participatory Research (Limited Competition R03). This FOA supports community-based participatory research projects planned and developed by recipients of the Phase I Academic-Community Partnerships Conference Series awards under PAR-09-092 and PAR-12-102. Deadlines: November 20, 2015 (application); a letter of intent is due 30 days before the application due date.


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