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01-21-2010

Clarkson University Researchers Study Link Between Pollutants, Health Issues in Detroit Neighborhoods

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/mapl.jpg]

Clarkson University researchers are helping the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health to study the link between air pollutants and health problems in children in Detroit.

"The overall project is designed to examine the relationship between asthma in children and exposures within 150 yards of major highways," said Philip K. Hopke, director of Clarkson’s Center for the Environment and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. mapl

To conduct the study, Clarkson is using its Mobile Air Pollution Laboratory (MAPL) to measure the distribution of air pollution near Detroit’s highways. The MAPL can monitor a number of pollutants, including black carbon, ultrafine particles, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

Suresh Raja, research assistant professor, said measurements were taken close to several highways, with additional measurements taken at several intervals moving away from the highways. "We did this in about eight areas and each area had about 12 stops," he said.

The first set of data was collected in October 2009 with a second set scheduled for April 2010, Raja said. Between the two collections, "we can estimate what kind of exposures would be there year-round."

"What we see is most of the black carbon in very high concentrations in areas closer to the highway as you would expect," he said, but, "it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t get those kind of exposures if you live far away from the highway, because we have meteorology playing a role in picking up these pollutants and transporting it to other places."

The two-year study also includes monitoring the indoor and outdoor environments of 210 asthmatic Detroit children living near highways. Researchers expect to find that pollution from cars and trucks will be a larger factor in the children’s asthma than any other source of pollution. Allergies and the presence of cigarette smokers in the household are expected to make the effects of pollution from the highways even worse.

Hopke said Clarkson has conducted similar tests in other cities. In Syracuse, he said, officials are discussing moving Interstate 81 instead of replacing it as it nears the end of its useful life. "Our results will help inform the decision by better quantifying the impact of the highway on local air quality." The MAPL has also been used to measure the distribution of pollutants near I-490 and I-590 in Rochester.

The research, Hopke said, will help strengthen Clarkson’s role as a leader in aerosol and atmospheric science and exposure assessment. "The results of these studies will provide valuable insights into the heterogeneity of exposure in urban areas where there are major highways," he said.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University is using its Mobile Air Pollution Laboratory to measure the distribution of air pollution near Detroit’s highways.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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