Air pollution and climate health research at the Sean N. Parker Center
Air pollution exposure is detrimental to health, with the World Health Organization attributing approximately 7 million annual deaths to exposure. Morbidity and mortality have been associated with increasing rates of wildland fire smoke exposure and residents living in fire-prone areas affected by wildland fires were exposed to significant levels of smoke during the latest wildland fire season in the Western U.S. states, specially in California. We have conducted research for more than 10 years in the Central Valley area focusing on immune health and the effects of air pollution in vulnerable populations.
We also recognize climate change as a social justice issue and a public health crisis. A rapidly warming planet will devastate our country and the world through worsening heat waves, wildfires, storms in some regions, and severe droughts in others that will disproportionately affect populations already made vulnerable from poverty and racism. Furthermore, people with lower incomes are more likely to live in communities with higher pollution levels from traffic-related air pollution, which is also an issue of environmental justice.
Given the prevalence of fire smoke in the U.S., the increasing burden from climate change, and the need to understand and combat air pollution, it is adamant to research the links of smoke exposure with disease risk and/or severity, design interventions aiming to reduce exposures and associated health risks, and assess the effectiveness of health risk communication strategies in supporting actions among vulnerable groups and the general public. Furthermore, communication about the health effects of wildland fire smoke is crucial for risk reduction efforts, especially in fire prone areas and vulnerable communities. Lastly, education must be tailored to individual and group needs and is ideal for using adaptive learning methodologies to offer culturally appropriate materials and education.
- Latest publication: "Air pollution exposure is linked with methylation of immunoregulatory genes, altered immune cell profiles, and increased blood pressure in children".
- Our director for air pollution and health research was interviewed in Scienceline "Prescribed fires may mean safer smoke".
- Our research was recently featured in the New York Times. "Wildfire Smoke Is Poisoning California’s Kids. Some Pay a Higher Price".
- A recent communication in Nature highlighted our work. "California Scientists Race to Assess Health Risks of Wildfire Smoke".
Mary Prunicki was honored as part of the: "Best of 2020: Stanford Medicine’s top podcasts".