University of Iowa researchers are launching a study that could help shape national environmental policy. The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding a grant of nearly one-million dollars to the U-of-I.
The study involves six researchers across multiple fields, one of whom is Greg Carmichael, a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering. He says previous studies have measured the amount of air pollution but not the health effects of specific pollution sources.
Carmichael says, "We need to develop multiple strategies to reduce emissions from all sorts of sources, but if we knew that we really should be paying particular attention to a certain source sector, then that would really help us target more effective public policies." For example, Carmichael says the study will measure whether pollution coming from diesel engines has worse health effects than sulfur that comes from coal-fired power plants. He says knowing those results could determine if public policy more heavily regulates the transportation or power sectors.
Pollution comes from multiple sources, and while the amount of air pollution can already be measured, the U-of-I team is trying to answer a different question. He asks, "Does one sort of particle have a different health outcome than another — is one particle more dangerous than another?" Carmichael says knowing which type of pollution has the most negative effects on human health will allow the government to better regulate emissions, which could change the way the transportation, power and industrial sectors operate.
"The bottom line," Carmichael says, "is that we want to protect our society as much as we can from the health impacts of air pollution." The study could last up to four years. Carmichael says pollution samples will be collected from urban areas and complex computer models will be used to analyze the data.