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Air Pollution and Cardiorespiratory Diseases

According to the World Health Organization, the link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer, has become stronger. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Continual exposure to airborne toxicants and particulate matter in communities around the globe can thus result in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, our research is focused on quantifying exposures to pollutants and on the biologic mechanisms that underlie the pathologies that lead to these chronic diseases. Such basic understanding is essential if there is to be any hope of reducing the impact of air pollution on human health and developing innovative solutions to ameliorate their effects.

Research Highlight

Source of Biomass Cooking Fuel Determines Pulmonary Response to Household Air Pollution

Approximately 3 billion people—half the worldwide population—are exposed to extremely high concentrations of household air pollution due to the burning of biomass fuels on inefficient cookstoves, accounting for 4 million annual deaths globally. We conducted a study using a rural cohort in Vadu village of the Pune district (Maharashtra, India) that uses biomass fuel as the primary source of cooking fuel. These homes contained closed kitchens that were separated from the rest of the house, thus limiting confounding effects of other household pollutants. The individuals who cooked used wood alone or a mixture of wood and cow dung. The goal of this study was to examine the pulmonary outcomes and understand the underlying molecular and cellular events in animal models exposed to PM collected from homes in rural India during cooking with biomass.

Associated Faculty