Feb 032008
Authors: Trevor Simonton

In states around the nation, communities with air and water pollution have often seen a link to health problems for residents. One researcher with CSU wants to know if such a link exists in Northern Colorado.

Dr. Jennifer Peel, an assistant professor of epidemiology at CSU, is researching daily pollution spikes in Greeley and Denver to determine if a correlation exists with daily emergency room visits.

Peel’s study has received federal funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is required, by law, to regularly fund research to see that cities are meeting government limits of airborne harmful pollutants.

The Clean Air Act, last amended in 1990, requires the EPA to set national air quality standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. Peel’s study will focus on a specific kind of air pollution, called coarse particulate matter.

Peel said that most previous research on the national air quality standard in this area has been done on finer particles of pollution, which have been linked to problems ranging from asthma to premature death.

“Coarse particulate matter is still a big question mark, little is known of its negative effects,” Peel said.

She will be watching emergency room data to determine if there is any correlation between emergency room visits and the pollution spikes that occur on a daily basis.

Peel’s research will watch for visits related to respiratory and coronary problems, as well as adverse birth outcomes. She will get her pollution data from seven air monitoring sites set up in Greeley and Denver.

“Coarse particulate matter can be a whole range of things; it is microscopic, smaller than sand.” Peel said, “Pollen is a good example of coarse particulate matter, but we will be looking for pollutants like carbon particles, nitrates, ammonium and metals.”

This data will be used to determine how intensely the sources of such pollution will be regulated, how much funding will be directed here by the EPA for further research and also to see what kinds of limits will be set on any new industries moving into the area.

“We will be focusing mainly on the pollutants that come from local agriculture and from highways,” Peel said.

The study will be completed over a four-year period of daily recording of air pollution levels and hospital visits.

Dr. Peel said that students must remember that a great source of air pollution is motor vehicle use. She said that trying to carpool or simply avoiding use of a car whenever possible really does help.

Staff writer Trevor Simonton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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