Carnegie Mellon University
March 11, 2016

Adams Joins EPA Air Pollution Panel

Adams Joins EPA Air Pollution Panel Particulate matter air pollution contributes to 50,000-100,000 premature deaths per year in the U.S., making it arguably the most dangerous airborne pollutant. Globally that number rises to 2 or 3 million. Breathing in particulate matter significantly increases one’s risk of heart attack, and many fatal heart attacks might not occur if the air were cleaner.

CEE Professor Peter Adams has been appointed to the Particulate Matter Review Panel, an advisory committee to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will review scientific literature and make recommendations for new air-quality standards. Over the next two to three years, Adams and the other panel members will read through available research and convene to determine the safest levels of particulate matter on an annual and daily basis.

The panel unites professors and researchers with varying expertise—from emissions or atmospheric chemistry to health effects. “There’s really some education that has to happen between disciplines, so I think that will be interesting,” says Adams.

The panel will have to make some hard decisions, because particulate matter originates from the things that are so central to our daily lives: transportation, electricity, and even food. Emissions from cars and power plants become particulate matter in the atmosphere. Agricultural burning, manure from livestock, and cooking also contribute to much of the particulate matter pollution. Historically, most improvements to particulate matter levels have come not from altering daily life but from integrating cleaner technologies.

“I am excited about it,” says Adams. “On the one hand it’s a lot of work and it’s high stakes. But on the other hand, it’s sort of an honor. And it’s an opportunity for all this research and publishing papers to make a difference in the real world.”