March 11, 2021
Two researchers from the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have been named to committees convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to tackle some of the country’s most pressing environmental health challenges.
Barbara Turpin, PhD, professor and chair of environmental sciences and engineering, is part of the committee to study the chemistry of urban wildfires in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), which is the area where urban homes transition into undeveloped wildland. Fires have burned thousands of acres of residential space in the WUI in recent years, particularly in states along the West Coast, such as California.
The committee experts will study chemical information that would improve mitigation of acute and long-term health effects from residential burning during these wildfires. This could include the chemical processes undergone by urban materials not usually found in wildland areas that undergo combustion during wildfires, the identity of chemicals in urban wildfire combustion products and debris, and the impact of human exposure to these chemicals.
The committee’s analysis will lead to a report with findings and recommendations that describe opportunities for chemistry research to support strategic decisions that can mitigate wildfire impacts on the general public.
“I am excited to be a part of this committee,” said Turpin. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and, over the last five years, every time I have returned home it has been smoky. It makes it hard to see the mountains I love, and I can feel it in my lungs. It is great to be able to contribute my knowledge of atmospheric chemistry, exposure and health to this important problem. The committee’s work is just beginning.”
Glenn Morrison, PhD, professor of environmental sciences and engineering, has been named to the committee that will study the emerging science on indoor air chemistry, with a focus on under-reported chemical science discoveries and how these findings shine a light on the link between chemical exposure, air quality and human health.
The committee’s study will lead to a report with findings and recommendations that address the key implications of the scientific research that could be integrated into practice and identify where additional chemistry research will be most critical for understanding the chemical composition of indoor air and adverse exposures.
The committee will also provide recommendations for communicating its findings to affected stakeholders. The indoor environments in this study will be limited to non-industrial exposure within buildings.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.