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12-21-2006

Clarkson's Hopke Searches For Link Between Airborne Pollutants and Respiratory Illness

Philip K. Hopke, professor and director of Clarkson's Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science (CARES) is an internationally respected expert on airborne pollution who serves on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science advisory board. He is also one of scores of health officials and scientists monitoring concentrations of airborne particles to find the casual link between pollutants and respiratory illnesses.

"Epidemiological studies have consistently found an association between small increases in urban particulates and health effects, including increased illness and deaths, particularly in people with respiratory and cardiovascular disease," says Hopke.

Hopke is part of an international team of experienced investigators testing the hypothesis that particles too small to be seen are linked to these health problems. Their research is part of a large scale, EPA-funded center grant to address airborne particulate matter and its effects on human health.

The five-year project is based at the Particulate Matter (PM) and Health Research Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The Rochester-based PM and Health Center is one of five STAR (SCIENCE to Achieve Results) Centers in the U.S. initially funded by the EPA in 1999 to study the effects on human health of airborne PM. The EPA sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.

"One of the main foci for our group will be the development and application of analytical methods to identify the reactive oxygen compounds associated with particles," Hopke explains. These oxidizing compounds can damage lung tissue and cause inflammation that exacerbates cardiovascular diseases. We are also determining the sources of the particles to which people and animals are being exposed.

"The research being done at the five PM and Health Centers is critical," adds Hopke. "There are real public health issues associated with airborne particulate matter. The sources of these health effects must be clearly identified so they can be controlled in a way that efficiently and effectively improves air quality while minimizing the impact on the economy."

[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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