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EPA Awards $8 Million Grant to Johns Hopkins to Study Health Effects of Air Pollution

Release Date: 01/25/2006
Contact Information: Mike Frankel (215) 814-2665

BALTIMORE - Today, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, Donald S. Welsh presented a grant of $8 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The grant is one of five totaling $40 million awarded to universities across the nation to establish five centers to study the particulate matter component of air pollution. Jonathon Samet, M.D., professor and chair of the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, will direct the center.

Particulate matter (PM) also referred to as particle pollution is an airborne mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the atmosphere. The solid particles come in numerous shapes and sizes ranging up to 10 micrometers. Each can combine with one of hundreds of different chemicals. Fine particles, defined as 2.5 micrometers or less in size (approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair), can penetrate deeper into the body’s respiratory system. Several studies show associations between particulate matter and premature death from cardiopulmonary causes. Fine particle exposure has been associated with many serious health problems including asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart arrhythmias, heart attack and premature death.

These PM centers will integrate multiple scientific disciplines to advance understanding of how to reduce the health impacts of particulate air pollution. Cardiologists will work with health physicists, engineers, statisticians, epidemiologists and toxicologists to determine the characteristics and sources of particles and their most severe effects. The five research centers will focus on human susceptibility, mechanisms of health effects, exposure-response relationships, and the cross-cutting issue of linking health effects with particulate matter sources and components.

The center in Baltimore will map health risks of particulate matter across the U.S. based on analyses of national databases on air pollution, mortality, and hospitalization. The maps will be used to guide detailed monitoring and collection of particle pollution samples for physical, chemical, and biological characterization in assays relevant to pulmonary and cardiovascular outcomes.

“This research center will further improve our understanding of how and in what manner particulate matter negatively impacts on human health. While the United States has made noticeable progress over the last four decades in reducing air pollution, substantial concern still remains about the health effects of particle pollution” said Welsh.

Particle pollution comes from a variety of sources including coal-burning power plants, factories, construction sites, cars, trucks, buses, tilled fields, unpaved roads, stone crushing, and the burning of wood. Other particles may be formed in the air when gases emitted from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor.

Reducing emissions of particle pollution is a crucial component of the Bush Administration’s strategy for cleaner air and healthier Americans. The Administration’s recent Clean Air Rules include a suite of actions that will dramatically improve air quality, people’s health and quality of life. This strategy includes EPA’s recent rule to reduce pollution from non-road diesel engines, a review of existing national ambient air quality standards for particle pollution, and the Clean Air interstate Rule to reduce pollution from power plants in the eastern US. Together these rules will make the next 10 years one of the most productive periods of air quality improvement in America's history.

EPA issued requests for applications for PM centers. Five centers were selected from 18 applicants whose proposals underwent a rigorous, external, peer review. The additional grants were awarded to Harvard University, the University of Rochester, the University of California at Davis, and the University of California at Los Angeles to study high-priority issues related to the effects of airborne particles on human health.

The grant awarded today is being funded through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) competitive grants program. For more information on EPA’s STAR program, see: Information on EPA’s Clean Air Rules is at: For more information on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University contact Kenna Lowe at 410- 955-6878.

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