Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution: Using data from NASA satellites and airport visibility sensors, Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers and colleagues are extending an approach used to study air pollution in the U.S. They are developing methods to estimate exposures - from dust and sand storms and other sources - for U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The work to date is reported in three related studies, two now online in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association and one pending publication.
The goal is to build reliable tools for epidemiologists trying to tease out the links between respiratory health and exposure to air pollution, especially in areas of the world where American troops are deployed but that lack air-quality monitoring networks like those in the U.S.
VA funded the research as a pilot to lay the groundwork for a larger study, under the auspices of VA's Cooperative Studies Program, to assess the lung health of 4,500 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The study, expected to be launched in 2017, is titled "Pulmonary Health and Deployment to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan." The three preliminary studies involved researchers from VA, the U.S. Army, Harvard, and universities in Kuwait and Israel.
The lead experts in satellite imaging were Dr. Alexandra Chudnovsky in the Department of Geography and Human Environment, School of Geosciences, Tel Aviv University; and Dr. Petros Koutrakis in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Chudnovsky is also currently a visiting scientist at the Chan School.
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