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Wed Nov 27, 2019, 08:21 AM

Viewpoint: Trump's Attack on Science Is an Attack on Public Health

Thirteen years ago, as an engineering graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, I stood on a rooftop in midtown Atlanta and took in a 360-degree view of the “city in the forest." It was a warm day, typical of spring in the southeast, but I wasn't just sightseeing. Rather, I was trying to better understand what I couldn't see with my eyes: the microscopic airborne particles — technically called particulate matter — that kill tens of thousands of people a year in the U.S.

Atlanta, like many major cities in the U.S., struggles with air pollution, and we know the sources — it comes from cars and trucks and industrial sites. But there are still lots of scientific questions about how it affects our health. How best to avoid the impacts of air pollution, for example? Is it better to stand on the roof of a building like I was, or on the outskirts of town? Does it matter? What about people who live and work near major roadways or industrial facilities? Are scientists capturing the air pollution and health effects that they experience?

Luckily, I had a huge dataset to help answer these questions. I had air pollution measurements for 12 different pollutants collected across 20 counties in the Atlanta area every day for six years. I developed complex statistical models to prepare the data, analyze it, and graph it. I used the data to figure out how well air pollution monitors work in epidemiologic models that help scientists understand the health effects of air pollution. After four years, I got my first peer-reviewed, first-author publication in a top journal in my field, followed by several more papers that expanded on this work. I was excited and relieved. I had finally accomplished what a young researcher dreams of: I made a small dent in the vast sphere of our scientific understanding of the world.

https://www.govexec.com/management/2019/11/viewpoint-trumps-attack-science-attack-public-health/161527/

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