December 7, 2015
A doctoral student in environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has received a 2015 Best Paper Award from the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).
Theodore J. Mansfield, lead author of “The Effects of Urban Form on Ambient Air Pollution and Public Health Risk: A Case Study in Raleigh, North Carolina,” accepted the award at the SRA’s annual meeting, held Dec. 6-10, in Arlington, Va.
Mansfield’s article was published Dec. 9, 2014, in the SRA’s journal Risk Analysis, the leading journal in its field.
Working with co-authors from UNC and N.C. State University, Mansfield found that densely populated regions with compact urban development that discourages commuting by car – widely touted as a way to increase exercise and reduce harmful automobile emissions – slightly lowers average regional particulate matter concentrations in air. However, such development could raise the risk of adverse health effects and mortality by 39 percent because the clustering of individuals in regions of high particulate matter increases exposure.
As a result, the authors conclude, “compact development alone is an insufficient means of reducing the public health impacts of transportation emissions in automobile-dependent regions.”
When transportation and urban planners evaluate alternative infrastructure investments and policies, the research team reported, they may need to account for health effects from local air quality.
The first-of-its-kind study was co-authored by Mansfield’s adviser, Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School; Daniel A. Rodriguez, PhD, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School and Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Community Design in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of City and Regional Planning; and Joseph Huegy, MRP, director of the Travel Behavior Modeling Group at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education.
“Risk Analysis is the premier academic journal for researchers interested in quantifying risks to human health and the environment, and the journal publishes more than 100 original research articles each year,” MacDonald Gibson said. “That Ted received this award is especially impressive, given that previous awards have gone mostly to established researchers in the field. Ted’s research is pushing the boundaries on ways to understand how the design of the built environment affects our health.”