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Health Systems Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Seed Grant Profile


2010-2011 Program

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Study of Air Pollution and Physical Activity

The objective of this proposal is to examine the acute effects of ambient air pollution exposures on the health of physically-active adolescents in Atlanta, Georgia. The urban community of metropolitan Atlanta provides an ideal location to investigate this specific environmental health risk. Atlanta is among the few U.S. cities with pollution levels that frequently exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and is currently in non-attainment for both ozone and particulate pollution. The moderate climate of north Georgia is suitable for outdoor activity during all seasons of the year, and not surprisingly, many school-aged children and adolescents are regularly engaged in outdoor recreational or athletic activities during times of year when ambient air pollution levels are highest. Maintaining high levels of physical activity is a critical tool in efforts to fight childhood obesity; however, the health risks associated with increased exposure to hazardous air pollutants while exercising outdoors has emerged as a source of concern to parents and school officials throughout the region. To address this issue, we propose to create the Study of Air Pollution and Physical Activity. Study personnel will conduct a thorough characterization of the concentration and composition of ambient air pollutants at Carver High School (CHS), two miles south of downtown Atlanta. CHS is located in a dense urban area between the region's largest interstate highway and a major heavy rail line. Air quality sampling will be conducted during the spring and summer seasons and will include a range of gaseous and particulate pollutant measurements. In addition, research staff will use non-invasive approaches to measure acute systemic and respiratory response in a cohort of 30 physically-active students participating in the football, soccer, cross-country and marching band programs. We will specifically include students with asthma who participate in these activities. For every day of intensive air quality sampling, fifteen students will undergo pulmonary function tests, provide exhaled nitric oxide and exhaled breath condensate (EBC) samples for analysis of oxidative stress biomarkers, and a subset of five students will be asked to wear a Holter monitor for the real-time assessment of heart rate and heart rate variability. Finally, we will examine the relationship between physical activity level and the health response to air pollution exposure. We will use hip-worn accelerometers to assess the activity level of students engaged in sports and outdoor band practice. The different demands of these activities provide a wide range of physical exertion intensity level and will provide us with a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between activity level and the oxidative effects of air pollution exposure.

Investigators: Roby Greenwald (Emory University), Michael Bergin (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Michael Schechter (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta)

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