2017 Progress Report: Project 4: Human Health Impacts of Energy Transitions: Today and Under a Changing World

EPA Grant Number: R835871C004
Subproject: this is subproject number 004 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835871
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH)
Center Director: Bell, Michelle L.
Title: Project 4: Human Health Impacts of Energy Transitions: Today and Under a Changing World
Investigators: Bell, Michelle L. , Deziel, Nicole Cardello , Peng, Roger D. , Son, Jiyoung , Storelvmo, Trude , Zhang, Yawei
Institution: Yale University , The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020 (Extended to September 30, 2022)
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 2016 through September 30,2017
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air , Climate Change


Decisionmakers who protect health from air pollution are faced with complex systems involving multiple emission sources, variation in health response by population and region, and such temporal changes as climate change and economic development. The overall goal of Project 4 is to provide scientific evidence to aid sound policy by investigating(1) factors that could influence air pollution-health associations, including modifiable factors and factors that could account for regional variability in observed associations (e.g., urbanicity, land-use) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) on risk of cardiovascular and respiratory hospital admissions, including understudied rural populations; (2) health impacts from energy transitions using the most up-to-date scientific information on the multipollutant mixture, regional variation and sensitive subpopulations; and (3) how climate change could affect health impacts of energy transitions and the co-benefits/costs of air quality policies by calculating their climate change impact.

Progress Summary:

We have accomplished several key tasks related to Project 4. Below, we highlight key accomplishments and preliminary results. We are investigating factors that could influence air pollution-health associations, such as long-term temporal trends in the short-term effects of PM2.5 of hospital admissions in the United States. Due to the complex nature of policy implementation, accountability research is hindered by difficulty in classifying pre- and post-policy exposure and health outcomes, excluding transboundary pollution from outside the study area, and distinguishing health impact change from multiple pollutants. For PM2.5, understating how the health effects may have changed over time is further complicated by its nature as a complex mixture with varying chemical components by season, location and time, which could affect its toxicity. Changes in health effect estimates over time could result from policy or technological changes that affect the chemical compositions of PM2.5 during this period. Other modifiable factors could also play a role, such as changes in central air conditioning. We are examining the temporal trend of the association between short-term exposure (i.e., a day or a few days) to PM2.5 total mass and risk of hospital admissions for those 65 years and older using Medicare billing records to examine if this association changes over time. In particular, we are examining the relationship of this trend with observed change in particulate matter composition and changes in population and community characteristics.

Representative projects include epidemiological analysis of the temporal trends of PM2.5. We are investigating the temporal trend of short-term association between hospital admission rates and PM2.5 level of previous days across more than 200 counties for over a decade in the United States. Specifically, the sub-aims of this work are: (a) to explore the temporal trend of association between short-term change in PM2.5 mass concentrations and hospital admissions among older Americans (ages 65 years and higher); (b) to examine the relationship of this trend with observed changes in particulate matter composition and behavioral changes in population, which could enlighten us on possible causes of the trend; and (c) to investigate possible connections between the trend and existing policies during that period, which will represent joint effects of multiple polices in previous decades and aid the design of future air pollution control policies.

Further, we are investigating the change in health impact of PM2.5 and ozone under different climate change scenarios in close coordination with Project 3. While our overall Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center objectives involve many scenarios, here we describe our current work, which we have begun with Project 3. We also will evaluate and compare multiple health linkage functions used in projecting air pollution-related health impacts under climate change, isolating different features of the system (e.g., population growth vs. climate change). Further, we are refining the methods to estimate human health outcomes with careful consideration of what assumptions and factors can be considered quantitatively versus qualitatively.

Another key feature of Project 4 is review and meta-analysis. We continue our work on systematic reviews and meta-analyses to investigate which subpopulations are most vulnerable or susceptible to environmental conditions, including air pollution and temperature. Weather impacts on human mortality are a critical public health concern with respect to climate change. We are assessing the sensitivity of subpopulations to weather mortality associations in previously published literature, and we have completed a systematic search using a MEDLINE/PubMed database for population-based studies of exposure to heat or high temperature, cold, and heat waves. We are near completion of our review of temperature-health studies, with a focus on effect modification. The search identified over 50,000 articles, with over 200 articles for analysis.

To study the impact of green space on the association between air pollution and health, we are examining Normalized Difference Vegetation Index derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Earth Observing System, along with demographic, weather and socioeconomic variables in relation to the association of air pollution with hospital admissions.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 2 publications 2 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Other center views: All 114 publications 69 publications in selected types All 69 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Bravo MA, Ebisu K, Dominici F, Wang Y, Peng RD, Bell ML. Airborne fine particles and risk of hospital admissions for understudied populations: effects by urbanicity and short-term cumulative exposures in 708 U.S. counties. Environmental Health Perspectives 2017;125(4):594-601.
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R835871 (2016)
R835871 (2017)
R835871 (2018)
R835871 (2020)
R835871C004 (2016)
R835871C004 (2017)
R833863 (Final)
R834798 (Final)
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    The SEARCH Center Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R835871    Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835871C001 Project 1: Modeling Emissions from Energy Transitions
    R835871C002 Project 2: Assessment of Energy-Related Sources, Factors and Transitions Using Novel High-Resolution Ambient Air Monitoring Networks and Personal Monitors
    R835871C003 Project 3: Air Quality and Climate Change Modeling: Improving Projections of the Spatial and Temporal Changes of Multipollutants to Enhance Assessment of Public Health in a Changing World
    R835871C004 Project 4: Human Health Impacts of Energy Transitions: Today and Under a Changing World