News Release

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

NIH, EPA announce competition for personal air pollution and health sensors

Challenge will spur collaboration between health researchers and technologists.

A competition to create a personal sensor system that measures air pollution and a persons physiological response to it will offer cash awards to finalists, federal officials announced today. The goal is to help researchers, communities, and physicians better understand the connection between air quality and health.

The My Air, My Health Challenge is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Details of the competition, developed in conjunction with crowdsourcing firm InnoCentive, are available at

Competitors will propose designs for sensors that can be easily worn or carried. In addition to gathering data on chemical and/or particulate air pollutants, these sensors will measure health parameters, such as heart rate and breathing. The proposals should also address how to make a wide array of collected data available to a broad spectrum of researchers, public health institutions, and other interested parties.

Up to four finalists will each receive $15,000 and will be invited to develop their proposals into working prototypes, to demonstrate how their systems can be integrated for practical use by people, and health and environmental agencies. One finalist will be awarded $100,000 for the most effective solution for integrating physiological and air quality data that is usable and meaningful to long-term health outcomes.

The announcement was made by NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and EPA Science Advisor Glenn Paulson, Ph.D. It was one of several competitions unveiled during this week’s Health Data Initiative Forum. The Health Data Initiative is a public-private collaboration, launched by HHS and the Institute of Medicine, which encourages innovators to utilize health data to develop applications that raise awareness of health system performance and spark community action to improve health.

"We're all different, and our bodies react in different ways to pollution and other harmful toxins in our environment," said Birnbaum. "We believe pairing health researchers with technology innovators will help us get the tools we need for a more complete picture of what people are breathing and how it might affect their health."

Paulson said, "This competition provides an opportunity to tap into the ingenuity of Americans to build technology to improve health. In the future, these types of personalized devices will enable people to make better informed choices about their own health and their environment."

Those interested can learn more about the competition during a webinar, which will take place June 19 at 4 p.m. EDT. For additional information about the webinar and the My Air, My Health Challenge, visit

The NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH.

For more information on environmental health topics, visit Subscribe to one or more of the NIEHS news lists to stay current on NIEHS news, press releases, grant opportunities, training, events, and publications.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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