The study is funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and Stanford University will use a new grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study interventions that could help reduce wildfire smoke exposure in low-income and hard-to-reach, non-English-speaking communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in California.
The research team will focus on quantifying how the use of affordable technology and native-language, messaging-based interventions will effectively decrease exposure to smoke and health risks among those who are low-income and non-English speakers. The team will conduct a two-year longitudinal randomized controlled trial, working closely with community-based groups to implement the field study.
“We are excited to embark on this study with Stanford University,” said Seung-Hyun Cho, Ph.D., a principal exposure scientist at RTI. “Increased drought in Western U.S. due to climate change is expected to increase risk and extent of wildfire, and some communities that are already experiencing health disparities do not have access to information that will help them stay safe. RTI is especially well-suited for this effort because of our wealth of multidisciplinary research experience studying the links between air pollution exposures and adverse health outcomes, as well as communicating these risks to underserved communities.”
RTI researchers will be responsible for measuring air quality indoors and outdoors before and during wildfire events for two full wildfire seasons and evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention methods. Indoor air quality measurements in various living conditions in the study community will provide additional insights for supplementing outdoor measurements to improve exposure assessment. Monitoring will also include the deployment of wearable particle sensors to examine how personal-level exposures between home and other locations are different during the wildfire events.
The team expects to generate a rich dataset for this unique understudied community for the purpose of; informing public health policy that can reduce health disparities, and providing recommendations for affordable and actionable technologies to reduce and communicate the exposures and health risks of wildfire smoke. These risks include immediate effects (e.g., coughing, wheezing and headaches) and long-term health consequences (e.g., asthma, cardiovascular events, stress and trauma).