UW To Monitor Every Breath You Take

UW To Monitor Every Breath You Take
SEATTLE - The Federal government and the University of Washington are working together to study air pollutants, including smoke from forest fires.

Thursday the UW got $30 million to figure out what happens when air pollution gets into our lungs.

We can all look at the Seattle skyline and see the haze. We also know it's pollution and it's not good.

What you're seeing is a collection of microscopic particulates so small, the matter is about 1/30 the size of a human hair.

"We need know what happens when those fine particles get into our lungs and that's what this study is about," explained EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt.

The Bush administration has chosen the University of Washington to find out, and sent the head of the EPA to deliver the largest scientific research grant in EPA history.

"It's about longer lives and healthier lives," said Leavitt.

The UW says research suggests longterm exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and hardening of the arteries. The EPA wants to know for sure.

"The overall impact of these exposures may be very great since wide spread pollutants in urban environments," said Dr. Joel Kaufman, UW professor and principal investigator.

Dr. Kaufman says the university will study individual levels of exposure to air pollution in nine communities across the U.S.

The focus will be on people 50 and older over a 10 year period.

Special monitors will be installed in communities, individual homes and even worn by some participants.

"Once we learn what the health impacts are we're be able to establish the right standards," said Leavitt. "Then we're able to move from there to determine how to balance between human activity and the environment."

Particulates come from a variety of sources, cars, trucks, buses, coal burning power plants and gases emitted from burning fuels.

The UW will work with a team of investigators and universities across the country.