|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Friday, July 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
$30 million EPA research grant goes to UW
By Craig Welch
The EPA awarded its largest research grant ever yesterday to Dr. Joel Kaufman, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health sciences. Kaufman will try to pinpoint more precisely the relationship between small particles of air pollution that can lodge in the lungs, and the nation's leading cause of death.
For 10 years, Kaufman and a team of researchers will track 8,700 people between the ages of 50 and 89 in six states. The studies will take place in California, New York, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland and Minnesota, in communities where pollution data, modeling and surveys about individual habits will allow scientists to keep detailed information on how much air pollution each subject is exposed to.
The UW researchers, who competed for the grant, will then track the incidence of atherosclerosis the buildup of plaque in carotid and coronary arteries as well as the number of heart attacks and strokes.
Most previous studies of air pollution have looked primarily at lung and respiratory ailments or cancer, but the National Research Council recently cited a need for more long-term data on particulate matter.
Small particles of pollution found in everything from wood smoke to construction dust, discharges from coal-burning power plants and diesel exhaust are clearly linked to premature death and poor lung development in children. Other studies have suggested an additional link to heart disease.
But "some people have raised questions about whether the existing studies really form a strong enough scientific basis to be regulating against pollution," Kaufman said. "This study is designed to answer those questions."
John Puzak, acting director of the EPA's National Center for Environmental Research, said the agency was eager to spend the money on such a large, long-term study because they want results that are beyond question.
"Everybody breathes air, and if there are effects caused by things in the air, it can affect everybody in the country," he said. "If there's a health benefit we can accrue by lowering particulate levels then, this might show that."
Puzak said Kaufman's research is an outgrowth of a new wave of science looking at the relationship between health and air pollution. While EPA used to worry about larger particles of pollution, scientists have learned it's the tiniest pieces that appear to cause the most damage.
"This will help us determine which sources, sizes and composition might be the best ones to control," he said.
"We're regulating right now in a very general way," he said.
Under President Bush, the EPA has scaled back exhaust from several types of diesel vehicles and, over the long term, is curbing pollution from coal-burning power plants.
Critics argue changes made to when power plants must update equipment would have, if left intact, achieved even more reductions. The administration disputes that characterization, saying its approach will achieve a significant reduction in pollution.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top