Air Pollution

Air pollution is a leading cause of disease burden around the world (Global Burden of Disease 2010).

In the US, environmental protection measures since the 1970s have made substantial progress in reducing ambient pollutant levels through emission control regulations and new technologies. This progress has been fueled by policy-relevant research assessing exposures to pollution and associations with adverse health outcomes. Despite this progress, approximately 75 million people reside in counties across the US with pollution levels above the standards (USEPA, 2013). Moreover, pollution levels continue to soar around the world.

Domestically and globally, there remain concerns about emissions from industry, vehicles, environmental tobacco smoke, and the burning of solid fuels such as coal, wood, and dung for cooking and home heating, particularly in developing countries. Air pollution and climate change are inherently interlinked within a complex system, with air pollution both driving and limiting global warming. Anticipated increases in natural threats like wildfires and increased ozone pollution with a warming climate raise concern for future public health.

Faculty and students at Rollins are leading projects to address concerns regarding air pollution and human health. Bridging much of this work is the Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology (SCAPE; ), a collaboration between Emory University—with faculty and students from Environmental Health, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics—and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Examples of current faculty research on air pollution and health

  • Studying linkages between exposures to pollution mixtures that occur during typical automobile commuting and oxidative stress-mediated pathways of cardiorespiratory injury
  • Characterizing a traffic pollution hotspot adjacent to residential areas on a college campus, with a focus on assessing the emission‐to‐exposure pathway for multi-pollutant indicators of primary traffic emissions
  • Investigating whether ambient air pollution mixtures during pregnancy are associated with the risk of preterm delivery or reduced birth weight

  • Examining whether air pollution mixtures during the first year of life are associated with the incidence of childhood asthma
  • Estimating associations between ambient air pollution mixtures and emergency department visits for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in multiple US cities
  • Quantifying how emission programs and meteorological variations impact air quality and health

Air Faculty and Research Interests

Vaughn Barry, PhD, Research Assistant Professor
Environmental epidemiology, epidemiological methods, health outcomes, PFOA, air pollution, lead

Mitch Klein, PhD, Research Assistant Professor
Air pollution epidemiology, biostatistics, methods

Yang Liu, PhD, Associate Professor
Satellite remote sensing, air pollution modeling, GIS, spatial statistics, climate change

Barry Ryan, PhD, Professor
Human exposure to environmental contaminants, pesticide exposure in children, environmental analytical chemistry, community air pollution

Jeremy Sarnat, ScD, Associate Professor
Air pollution, toxicology, exposure assessment

Stefanie Sarnat, ScD, Associate Professor
Cardiovascular and respiratory effects of ambient air quality, climate change

Paige Tolbert, PhD, O. Wayne Rollins Professor and Chair
Pulmonary, cardiac and reproductive health effects of ambient air pollution exposure, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, water pollution

Robert Breiman, PhD (Global Health)

Eri Saikawa, PhD (Environmental Sciences)

Dennis Creech, MA (Southface Institute)

Roby Greenwald, PhD (Georgia State University)

Maria Mirabelli, PhD (CDC)

Ying Zhou, ScD (CDC)

EH 515

Air Quality in the Urban Environment: A Survey of Research Methods and Recent Findings


Sarnat, J.

EH 587

Introduction to Remote Sensing of the Environment and its Applications to Public Health


Liu, Page

CEE 6792*

Air Pollution Meteorology


CEE 6794*

Atmospheric Chemical Modeling


*Courses available at Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Civil Engineering

Fanning-Dowdell, Gabrielle (2013). “Measuring Exposure and Inhaled Dose of PM and Black Carbon among Adolescents Engaged in Physical Activity.” Advisors: Roby Greenwald

Dutton, Nina (2012). “Prevalence of asthma-like symptoms among school children in a rural district of Andhra Pradesh, India.” Advisor: Jeremy Sarnat

Lee, Albert San-Kyu (2012). “Air Quality Exposure Assessment: Modeling the Impact of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) on Surrounding Residential Neighborhoods.” Advisor: Barry Ryan

Li, Weiwei (2012). “Exhaled Breath Malondialdehyde as a Biomarker of Effect of Exposure to Traffic-related Air Pollution.” Advisor: Roby Greenwald

Rees, Erika (2012). “Enhancing Environmental Public Health Tracking with Satellite-Driven Particle Exposure Data.” Advisor: Jeremy Sarnat

Kundomal, Kalinda (2013). “Improving Asthma Education in Emergency Departments in Southeast New Mexico.”

Gooch, James (2011).  “Getting the Smoke Out:  Providing Resources and Organizational Management to Healthy Homes Programs for Addressing Secondhand Smoke in Multi-Unit Homes.”

Wu, Jiang (Jack) (2011).  “The current smoking and passive smoking status and analysis of middle school students in Ningbo, China.”

One Earth Designs, Indoor Air Quality Research Associate (Xining, China): Conduct indoor air quality research in the Golok Prefecture of the Qinghai Province.  Measure PM2.5 and black carbon and administering a qualitative survey. Results will be compared with existing indoor air quality measurements carried out by One Earth Designs in Huangnan Prefecture.

Delagua Health Rwanda (Implementation) Ltd., Researcher (Kigali, Rwanda): Participate in implementation of a household water treatment and indoor air pollution intervention distributing water filters and cook stoves to households in rural Rwanda.  Data collection and analysis will be conducted to assess baseline water and air quality to be used for further research on impact of the intervention.

DeKalb Peachtree Airport Air and Noise Quality Study, Research Project Coordinator: Coordinate and execute the field sampling efforts as well as collaborate with professors to develop the analytic methods associated with the sampling techniques used in the study. Time is split mostly between field sampling around the airport and sampler prep/analysis in the laboratory.

Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology, Research Project Coordinator: Perform a large range of tasks for SCAPE including drafting all EPA-mandated reporting, organizing Scientific Advisory Council meetings, assisting with budgets, and serving as the Quality Manager.