Thursday, January 19, 2023

University of Iowa engineering professors are investigating the links between exposure to air pollution and human health and crop yields in hopes of generating improved and innovative public health and air quality interventions. 

Scientists know poor air quality can be linked to low-birthweight, increased risk of dementia, and negatively impact the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease, and a similar case can be made linking air pollution to underperforming crops.  

Yet, many parts of the world are slow to act on this knowledge. 

Gregory Carmichael

Gregory Carmichael, Karl Kammermeyer Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and the study’s principal investigator, believes this is in part due to a gap in the air pollution measurements needed to estimate human and crop exposures. This gap can lead to inaccurate exposure assignments and very large errors in assessments of health outcomes and losses in crop yields. 

UI professors Robert Blount, Charles Stanier, and Jun Wang, and Dimitris Stratoulias from the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center are also contributing to the three-year, $660,000 NASA-sponsored study.  

The team aims to harness new satellite data, information from new global air pollution predictions, along with local measurements, and apply artificial intelligence methods to improve exposure estimates in respiratory health and crop yield studies. By making these improved exposure estimates more accessible to physicians, scientists, public health officials, and crop scientists performing health and food security outcomes, the team hopes the more accurate impact assessments will inspire more effective public health and air quality actions focused on reducing the air pollutants responsible for these impacts.