Baylor Researcher to Study Air Pollution, Asthma Exacerbation in Fort Worth Area School District

Aug. 18, 2011

Study will examine whether air pollution contributes to higher childhood asthma rates

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A new study by Baylor University environmental researchers will look at asthma rates, regional air contaminants, pollution source and contaminant particle size in a Tarrant county school district near Fort Worth.

In 2009, childhood asthma in Tarrant County in north Texas was found to be more than double the national average. Ozone, a well-documented environmental stimulus of asthma, is a known air quality issue in the region that is habitually out of EPA "attainment" during summer months.

The Baylor researchers will conduct regional air quality tests that documents ozone and fine particulate concentrations multiple times a day over a year. The data will be combined with on-site monitoring of known lung irritants, such as optical black carbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The concentrations will be examined for correlation with asthmatic incidence data from school-based clinics at several schools in the Crowley Independent School District outside of Fort Worth.

"This study will help us determine if air pollution in the area is responsible for asthma exacerbation in school-aged children and give insight into future studies to determine if the higher rates of asthma in children can be contributed to air pollutants," said Dr. Erica Bruce, assistant professor of environmental sciences at Baylor who is leading the study. "If air pollution does play a role, we can then determine how to limit exposure at certain times of day or weeks, and what other environmental factors might play a role in asthma exacerbation and incidence rates."

Bruce said the monitoring of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons will help researchers understand their specific contribution in increasing asthma incidence. Despite their known potent health effects and presence in urban environments, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have not been specifically studied as a source of atmospheric asthma exacerbation. Bruce said monitoring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons will help determine if better contaminant standards are required for regional air quality to maintain public health.

The monitoring will begin later this month and will continue for a year.

ABOUT BAYLOR

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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