Campus study on air pollution in valley underway

USU colleagues are conducting a study to demonstrate the health effects of particle pollution in Cache Valley.The study – led by Roger A. Coulombe Jr., director of Interdepartmental Graduate Toxicology Program, along with USU associates Jim Davis, MD, director of Student Health and Wellness Center; Randy Martin, environmental engineering; John Stevens, math and statistics and partners at the University of Utah – tests volunteers’ blood cells on days with high air pollution, as well as days with cleaner air, in order to find particulate matter-related health problems.Coulombe said the study has been going on for seven or eight years, but last week they began using human volunteers for research. Using cultured cells, they hope to find predictive markers of potential health problems caused by particulate matter (PM). Teresa Allpress, master’s student working on the study, said they test for inflammatory responses in the skin and lungs.PM is potentially harmful, because the particles formed are large and can get stuck deep in the lungs and interact with cells, Allpress said.Air quality is especially poor in Cache Valley because of “cows and cars,” Coulombe said. Cars produce nitric oxide and cows’ urine releases ammonia gas. These gases combine, resulting in air contamination. Cache Valley’s geography also contributes to the air quality. In the winter, as the temperature changes, the warm air rises, trapping the heavy pollutants in the valley, resulting in an inversion. Because of the geographic characteristics, the impure air cannot disperse, leaving Cache Valley with terrible pollution. In 2003 and 2004, Coulombe said, Cache Valley was said to have the worst air in the nation.

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