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What's Really the Matter with Particulates

Scientists have known for decades that what's in the air affects health, but which particles affect which people and how? With a five-year $8 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the new Particulate Matter Research Center at the Bloomberg School is dedicated to answering these questions.

The center, funded through a Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant, will use EPA air monitoring data as well as national mortality and hospitalization numbers to evaluate different regions across the country. The ultimate goal, says Jonathan M. Samet, MD, is to determine what makes these airborne, microscopic particles dangerous.

Particulate matter (an airborne mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets) can originate from different sources: factories, coal-burning power plants, construction sites, trucks, unpaved roads or the burning of wood.

The new Center is one of five centers established across the country. "Our air is full of particulate matter," says Samet, chair of Epidemiology. "We want to find out which particles are the most injurious to health so that their sources can be controlled."

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