Summer Interns Make Valuable Contributions to Clean Air Programs

Sep 11, 2018

This summer, Clean Air Carolina had four interns working with the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA) and the AirKeepers Programs:

Jiaqi Li

Jiaqi Li

Jiaqi Li is a graduate student at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, concentrating in ecotoxicology and environmental health.

Hannah Klaus

Hannah Klaus

Hannah Klaus is an undergraduate student at American University pursuing a Bachelor of arts in environmental studies and a bachelor of arts in economics.

Kandyce Dunlap

Kandyce Dunlap

Kandyce Dunlap earned her a bachelor of science in community health education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2017. Currently, she is a master of public health candidate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a concentration in community health practice.

Cameron France

Cameron France

Cameron France is an undergraduate student at Davidson College where she is pursuing a bachelor of science in environmental studies with a focus in the natural sciences and a minor in health and human values.

Health Effects on Air Pollutants

Li did a research review on the emerging issue of GenX and its effect on air quality and human health. GenX is a relatively new type of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS), after some of the legacy PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid , were phased out. It is used as non-stick coating material, such as food packaging and household products. GenX was first found in the Cape Fear River in June 2017.

Dunlap researched the effects of air pollution on fetal development and published a blog post on this topic. Exposure to air pollutants is linked to adverse health outcomes including lower birth weight, preterm birth, stillbirth and loss of pregnancy. She also reported that air pollution is linked to poor lung development and respiratory distress in newborns.

France researched the health effects of air pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). CAFOs release multiple pollutants into the air. Over 331 different volatile organic compounds and fixed gases are released from North Carolina swine facilities. The most studied pollutants include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, malodorous gases and particulate matter. These major pollutants can cause both short and long-term health effects and can lower the quality of life of a community.

MAHA Training

Li and Klaus improved MAHA air quality, health and advocacy training geared towards medical professionals treating adults and one geared towards pediatricians. They made the training more engaging by including case studies and more opportunity for discussion. The new training is now more “trainer-friendly” and will eventually be lead by MAHA members.

Quantifying the Health Cost Savings from Clean Construction

While existing research provides  an understanding of the environmental impacts of the air pollutant emissions from nonroad construction equipment, there has not been an effort to estimate the monetary value of health benefits from reducing construction emissions. Li and Klaus quantified the health cost savings for a construction project in Mecklenburg County by updating construction equipment for higher efficiency and reducing particulate matter pollution. The change resulted in health cost savings from $307,839 to $695,303 for Mecklenburg County and $435,322 to $983,589 for North Carolina. The savings comes from a reduction in mortality, hospitalizations, and other health endpoints associated with exposure to PM2.5 pollution.

Air (E) Quality Reports

France and Dunlap created Air (E) Quality Reports, an interactive story map that details traffic emissions, industrial facilities, demographic indicators, health data and current climate stories for 10 counties: Buncombe, Caldwell, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Northampton, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson and Wake.

Informational Material

Klaus and Dunlap wrote a blog and created handouts that medical professionals can give to patients with information about the Air Quality Index. The materials also address who is susceptible to the health effects of air pollution exposure and recommendations on how to stay active while reducing exposure on poor air quality days. Dunlap also created handouts on the environmental and human health effects of particulate matter, effective presenting, and the environmental and human health effects of asphalt repaving.

Air Sensing

All of the interns attended the Environmental Protection Agency Air Sensors 2018 Workshop. The two-day workshop brought together stakeholders including air sensor manufacturers, researchers, advocacy groups and citizen scientists to discuss current applications of air quality monitors and to move the field forward. For more information on this conference, click here.