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Environmental Exposures

Environmental Health Disparities

Environmental Health Disparities in an Older Population

Understanding environmental health disparities for older persons is critical given the unprecedented aging of the population, with 20% of US persons anticipated to be older than 65 years of age by 2030, and the elder population becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Older persons can be more affected by environmental and socio-economic status (SES) factors due to baseline health, changing metabolism, or larger cumulative exposures. Harmful environmental exposures, such as air pollution, often occur in communities facing SES stressors including deteriorating housing, poor access to health care, high unemployment, crime, and poverty, which may exacerbate negative health effects. This phenomenon is most pronounced for low-income and minority communities and underlies health disparities. Identifying the most harmful environmental and social factors and the subpopulations of the elderly that are most affected is of paramount importance. Although it is widely agreed that multiple environmental and SES factors affect health, little is known about their complex interactions.

Our long-term objective is to investigate how environmental and SES factors jointly contribute to health disparities in the older population. We will consider disparities in two separate but related forms: 1) differences in exposures (e.g., pollution levels) to environmental and SES factors; and 2) differences in health response (e.g., relative risk) from exposures to environmental and SES factors.

Specifically, our aims are to: 1) calculate differences in exposures to environmental and SES factors, considered individually and collectively, for an older population (older than 65 years of age) in Michigan and North Carolina, and to construct a highly resolved spatio-temporal data architecture for analysis; 2) calculate differences by subpopulation (e.g., race/ethnicity, age, sex, community SES) for associations between environmental and SES factors and cause-specific emergency cardiovascular and respiratory hospital admissions, emergency department visits, and mortality; and 3) combine disparities in exposures and disparities in health response to calculate overall environmental health disparities. Environmental and some SES factors represent modifiable risks through which we can improve health in our aging population. Analyses will identify the most effective foci for intervention and policy engagement by identifying the most significant common contributors to environmental health disparities for the elderly, and discovering how the environment affects people in order to promote healthier lives.


Ethane Cracker Plants in the US

Ethane Cracker Plants in the United States: Emissions and Community Vulnerability

The purpose of this project is to characterize emissions from ethane cracker plants in the United States and to evaluate the environmental health impacts to surrounding communities with an environmental justice perspective.

Principal Investigator:

Exposomics for Crohn’s Disease

Exposomics for Early Life Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Early life exposures are believed to play a role in disease onset, but an understanding of the specific factors that drive Crohn's disease outcomes is lacking. This project will identify Crohn's disease-specific environmental exposure signatures that can ultimately guide targeted interventions.

Principal Investigator:

Exposure to Environmental Contaminants

Exposure to Environmental Contaminants and Immune Function in South African Children

The major goals of this project are to characterize sources and determinants of exposure to DDT/E, pyrethroid insecticides, and PM2.5 in rural South African children. Additionally, we will determine whether exposure to DDT/E, pyrethroid insecticides, and/or PM2.5 is associated with altered immunity or evidence of allergic airway disease.