MESA Air study

Traffic on a roadway at night in Seattle.

Exploring the links between air pollution and cardiovascular disease

The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (MESA Air) investigates the relationship between air pollution exposures and the progression of cardiovascular disease over time.

The MESA Air Pollution study is headquartered at the University of Washington and led by principal investigator Dr. Joel Kaufman, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and of medicine and epidemiology at the UW. 

Air pollution is associated with a range of health risks, from heart and lung diseases to diabetes, obesity and dementia.

A recent article published in JAMA by the MESA Air research team found air pollution--especially ozone air pollution--accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung by as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

About MESA Air

The MESA Air study involves thousands of participants from across the United States and builds on another population-based study, the MESA study, funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The original MESA study began in 2000 and recruited subjects for the study of cardiovascular disease in six states: New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois and California.

The MESA Air study began in 2004, when the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences received a $30 million grant to study the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular disease. It was the largest grant ever awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency for scientific research.

Fourteen institutions contribute to the research effort, including: Columbia University; Johns Hopkins University; Northwestern University; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Southern California; and Wake Forest University.

This network of researchers across the country combine their knowledge and specific expertise to improve our understanding of how lifestyle, genetics and environmental factors like air pollution contribute to the slow growth of cardiovascular disease in adults.

Funding from sources including EPA, the National Institutes of Health and the Health Effects Institute sustains the MESA Air research since the original grant funding ended in 2014.

About MESA Air Next

In 2018, the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences received a new $3 million award from EPA to fund the MESA Air Next project to study the effects of fine particulate matter and other pollutants on cardiovascular health over time.