Mobile lab allows researchers to study air quality, health effects

Oct 07, 2009
MSU professor Jack Harkema and Emily White, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, analyze data at the new mobile air research laboratory dubbed AirCARE 2.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new mobile air research laboratory will help a team of researchers led by a Michigan State University professor better understand the damaging health effects of air pollution and why certain airborne particles - emitted from plants and vehicles - induce disease and illness.

Jack Harkema, a University Distinguished Professor of pathobiology and diagnostic investigation in the College of Veterinary Medicine, will deploy the new 53-foot, 36,000-pound center - dubbed "AirCARE 2" - throughout southern Michigan, including metropolitan Detroit.

"The mobile laboratory allows us to analyze ‘real-world' pollution in communities that may be at risk," he said. "We can study why certain ailments, such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and even obesity, may be more pronounced after exposure to particulate ."

With about 450 square feet of indoor laboratory space, the $400,000 center helps researchers study fine and ultrafine particles in air pollution. These small particles have been found to increase mortality and morbidity among susceptible people with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease.

Housed in a converted semitrailer, the mobile laboratory pulls air from the surrounding atmosphere through an air-particle concentrator, allowing the scientists to selectively collect the particles and analyze for chemical components that may be responsible for damaging health effects.

Researchers can study the subtle effects of controlled particle exposure on both laboratory animals and human subjects, providing clues on why and how pollutant particles are so harmful to the heart and lungs. Harkema works closely with environmental and biomedical researchers from the University of Michigan on the projects.

"We know particles in the air can exacerbate pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease in people," Harkema said. "We need to understand why. There are many different components to air pollution, and we want to determine which of these are most harmful and where there come from."

The addition of the new mobile laboratory allows Harkema and U-M collaborators Robert Brook, a cardiologist, and Gerald Keeler, an atmospheric scientist, to conduct a new study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. As part of the project, Harkema, Brook and Keeler will deploy AirCARE 2 in rural southeastern Michigan to study the cardiovascular health effects of transported air pollution originating from distant emission sites in Michigan or adjacent states.

AirCARE 2 was partly funded through the MSU strategic partnership grant, the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. The new fine particle concentrator in the AirCARE 2 received some funds from the Electric Power Research Institute and the American Petroleum Institute.

The first MSU Mobile Air Research Laboratory, AirCARE 1, currently spends six months of the year in metro Detroit conducting air pollution studies and then six months in Los Angeles as part of a six-university partnership known as the federal Southern California Particle Center in California. The $8 million partnership, funded by the EPA and led by UCLA, is a five-year endeavor to investigate how exposure to airborne particles affects health and how the impact varies with the source, chemical composition and physical size.

Provided by Michigan State University (news : web)

Explore further: Coal-rich Poland ready to block EU climate deal

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Largest air pollution study is released

Mar 08, 2006

A study published Wednesday suggests fine particulate air pollution spikes increase cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations across the United States.

Indoor air pollution increases asthma symptoms

Feb 19, 2009

A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University found an association between increasing levels of indoor particulate matter pollution and the severity of asthma symptoms among children. The study, which followed a ...

Recommended for you

Coal-rich Poland ready to block EU climate deal

15 minutes ago

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to set their new greenhouse gas emissions plan are facing staunch opposition from coal-reliant Poland and other East European countries who say their economies would ...

EU leaders seek last-minute climate deal

4 hours ago

European Union leaders came under pressure Thursday to strike a deal aimed at bolstering Brussels as a trailblazer in fighting global climate change as negotiations went down to the wire.

Research team studies 'regime shifts' in ecosystems

7 hours ago

The prehistory of major ecological shifts spanning multiple millennia can be read in the fine print of microscopic algae, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

User comments : 0