NIH, EPA announce competition for personal air pollution and health sensors
The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up and is hosting a competition to build a pollution and health sensor.
Egwuagu: The NIH and the EPA have challenged the public to build a sensor that will help researchers, physicians and communities better understand how the environment and health are connected. Dr. David Balshaw, a program director for emerging technologies at NIH's National Institute of Environment Health Sciences (NIEHS) explains how the environment and health are connected.
Balshaw: Everything that we encounter in our environment is likely to have some effect on our environment at some point. We've been told that our genes are a critical determinant of our health and as we have learned about more genetic susceptibility, it's become clear that much of that is actually due to the interaction between genetic factors and environmental factors contributing to disease.
Egwuagu: There have been examples of these connections in diseases such as children's asthma. So, the EPA and NIEHS have decided to collaborate and create the My Air, My Health Competition to build a sensor.
Balshaw: Can we develop a single package that's very wearable, very unobtrusive, takes advantage of the kind of modern technologies, the smart phones that we have to link what people are exposed to and how it affects their breathing or their heart rate, skin temperature conductants as they have a physiological response to their environment.
Egwuagu: This competition will take place through the end of this year and go until May of the next year. The challenge will have two phases and the first phase is due in the fall.
Balshaw: The first phase is a proposal where we want them to form an interdisciplinary team and kind of put down on paper what they're thinking. And then the other critical part of the proposal is a plan, a plan for how they're going to actually build it and how they're going to test it. We're going to take those, we're going to review them, and we're going to choose up to four people who are winners, finalists I guess we're going to call them here. And each of those individuals gets $15,000.
Egwuagu: The information and data that the researchers at NIEHS collect will help them learn more about diseases affected by the environment.
Balshaw: So what we ultimately want to be able to do is to use information that we have on how environment influences health to drive identification of the sources of pollution in the environment and to guide policy as well as clinical intervention to really reduce the burden of disease by acting at the point the disease begins.
Egwuagu: To learn more about the My Air, My Health competition please visit http://www.challenge.gov and for more information on environmental health topics please visit http://www.niehs.nih.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Emeka Egwuagu— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Emeka Egwuagu
Sound Bite: Dr. David Balshaw
Topic: EPA, competition, asthma, pollution, sensors