Frontiers: Three questions about air pollution

Julian Marshall

More than 2 million people die each year from the health complications of air pollution, such as heart disease, lung cancer, asthma and acute lower respiratory infections, according to the World Health Organization.

Julian Marshall, IonE resident fellow and assistant professor of environmental engineering in the College of Science and Engineering, addresses the problem of air pollution by asking three questions.

First, how does the size and shape of a city relate to its air pollution? Second, can indoor air quality from cooking and heating with biomass be significantly improved with a better stove? And third, can switching to biofuels decrease the health and climate impacts of fueling our vehicles with gasoline?

Marshall offered insights into all three at his Frontiers in the Environment presentation April 10, “Air Pollution Kills! So What?”

In one project he presented at the talk, Marshall and his research team looked at satellite photos of cities of similar population but different shape, measuring compactness, contiguity (what percentage of buildings are immediately adjacent to one another) and air quality.

In a second project, the team worked with a non-governmental organization to distribute high-efficiency cooking stoves to a village in rural India, where 500,000 people die each year from indoor air pollution.

For the third project, they measured pollution and distribution of electricity (from coal, wind and solar), diesel, compact natural gas, ethanol and gasoline levels across the U.S.

There were some unexpected results. To learn what Marshall and his team discovered to be the best solutions to reduce air pollution and save lives, watch the April 10 Frontiers seminar, “Air Pollution Kills! So What?”

Monique Dubos is a freelance writer and photographer. She currently works at the University of Minnesota.