Airborne Particulate Matter Research Centers - New (2005)

Additional Information Available

EPA's Office of Research and Development has requested SAB advice on the future direction of ORD's Particulate Matter Research Centers Program. Materials are available on the 2008 SAB Advisory Website.

In 2005, the EPA has awarded $40 million to establish five, cutting-edge research centers that will further improve our understanding of how particulate matter or PM affects human health and the types and sources of PM most responsible for these effects. The grants were awarded to Johns Hopkins University, 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.

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 ambient particulate matter, a major component of the air pollution mix in many areas of the country.  Several studies show associations between PM and premature death from cardiopulmonary causes.  PM has also been linked to hospitalization for respiratory or cardiovascular diseases and exacerbation of respiratory diseases or decreases in lung function or lung growth. 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.

Particulates come 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.

Grant awards were made to:

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. – The Center will map health risks of PM across the US based on analyses of national databases on air pollution, mortality, and hospitalization, and then use the maps to guide detailed monitoring and collection of PM samples for physical, chemical, and biological characterization in assays relevant to pulmonary and cardiovascular outcomes.

Harvard University, Boston, Mass. – The fundamental objective of this Center is to understand how specific PM characteristics and sources impact inflammation, autonomic responses, and vascular dysfunction.

University of California, Los Angeles, Calif. -- Center researchers will investigate the underlying mechanisms that produce the health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter, and attempt to understand how toxic mechanisms and resulting health effects vary with the source, chemical composition and physical characteristics of particulate matter.

University of California, Davis, Calif. – Researchers will investigate the properties of particles that are responsible for human health effects, the metabolism that underlies these effects, and the consequences of chronic exposures, especially during childhood, that make individuals more susceptible to adverse effects.

University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y. – Researchers will investigate the mechanisms by which fine and ultrafine particles from specific sources cause adverse cardiovascular effects, particularly in susceptible groups such as diabetics and those with cardiovascular disease.