UI Researchers Win $899,401 Grant to Identify Air Pollutants in U.S. Cities

Friday, February 20, 2009

University of Iowa News Release

A team of University of Iowa researchers has received an $899,401 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify some of the most hazardous air pollutants in major U.S. cities, including Chicago.

The project will develop techniques to identify harmful particulate matter, as well as its sources, in urban air, according to Charles Stanier, assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering and assistant research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, as well as project principal investigator.

"The objective is to bring together experts in the health effects of particulate matter with experts in the modeling of air quality concentrations," Stanier said. "We are thrilled to have been selected for this by the EPA.

"In the past, studies of the health effects of particulate matter have relied on air quality monitor data that is limited to one sample a day, and sometimes the monitors are located dozens of miles away from the individual with the health effect. We intend to demonstrate some advanced techniques for combining measurements and simulations into a hybrid product that can be of use to air pollution health scientists." he said.

He added that the project builds on air quality modeling techniques developed in part at the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

In conducting the project, researchers will run simulations using EPA's air quality model. The model predictions will be combined with measurement data using statistical tools originally developed for combining meteorological measurements with weather models.

An additional tool, called Target Oriented Air Quality Modeling, will be used and demonstrated as a promising technology to map out source regions that need to be controlled to achieve any health or air quality target that the EPA might be interested in.

Stanier's UI colleagues on the project are Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering; R. William Field, professor of occupational and environmental health and professor in the Department of Epidemiology; Naresh Kumar, assistant professor of geography; and Jacob Oleson, assistant professor of biostatistics.

In addition, the UI will partner with the research group of Daniel Krewski of the University of Ottawa, Canada, where he is the director of the R. Samuel McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment.

Stanier said that results of the four-year-long study will be made available to the public and other researchers and will be used in pilot-scale epidemiological studies.

The project, formally titled "Innovative Approaches to Particulate Matter Health, Composition, and Source Questions," is being funded by EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program. STAR engages the nation's best scientists and engineers in targeted research that complements EPA's intramural research programs and those of EPA's partners in other federal agencies.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu