EPA awards UW nearly $3 million to further study air pollution and cardiovascular disease link

CONTACT: Mark MacIntyre EPA/Seattle, 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark@epa.gov
Jeff Hodson, University of Washington School of Public Health, 206 685-8904, jeffhod@uw.edu

Heart disease and stroke treatment cost the US economy close to $1 billion a day

(Seattle) February 8, 2018 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the University of Washington a $2,996,426 grant to help fund the "Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution - Next Stage (MESA Air Next)" project, building on more than a decade of research that looks at the connection between inhaled small particle pollution and increased risks of stroke, heart attacks and other cardiovascular disease.

Over the past 14 years, EPA has invested $33 million and leveraged over another $70 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death in the U.S.," said Chris Hladick, EPA Regional Administrator in Seattle. "Doctors and other health researchers need to better understand the early role of air pollution in the development of these diseases. By helping fund this study, we can help protect the public from serious, preventable illness."

The MESA Air Next research is reducing important areas of uncertainty that remain regarding the effects of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other criteria pollutants on cardiovascular health, over time. A better understanding of effects allows decision makers and practicing clinicians to make more informed health-related recommendations to both the general public and groups of people that may be at higher risk (e.g. elderly, diabetics). With a clearer understanding of the uncertainty of these estimates, public health authorities can make more informed resource allocation decisions based on robust science and accurate measurements.

"The research to date has been unusually productive, and this award recognizes that with an investment toward this additional work," said lead investigator Dr. Joel Kaufman, interim dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health and professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

Dr. Kaufman's UW co-investigators on the new MESA Air Next grant are Dr. Elizabeth (Lianne) Sheppard, assistant chair and professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and professor of biostatistics; Dr. Paul Sampson, research professor emeritus of statistics; Dr. Adam Szpiro, associate professor of biostatistics; and Dr. Richard Kronmal, professor of biostatistics and statistics.

This award builds on previous multi-agency investments and resources, therefore avoiding many of the start-up costs usually associated with this type of research, such as establishing a new study cohort and infrastructure to make initial and follow-up measurements, and the development of a data management system. By incorporating these unique resources in MESA Air Next, this research can make great strides in understanding one of the most serious, yet preventable, health risks we face in modern society.

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For more about the MESA Air Next study and University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences: http://deohs.washington.edu/mesaair/home