Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: Harnessing Technologies to Study Air Pollution’s Health Risks

Perry Hystad
Credit: Hannah O’Leary, Oregon State University

After college, Perry Hystad took a trip to India and, while touring several large cities, noticed the vast clouds of exhaust from vehicles, smoke from factories, and soot from biomass-burning cook stoves. As he watched the rapid urban expansion all around him, Hystad remembers thinking: What effect does breathing such pollution day in and day out have upon these people’s health?

This question stuck with Hystad, and he soon developed a profound interest in environmental health. In 2013, Hystad completed his Ph.D. in his native Canada, studying the environmental risk factors for lung cancer [1, 2, 3]. Now, with the support of an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, Hystad has launched his own lab at Oregon State University, Corvallis, to investigate further the health impacts of air pollution, which one recent analysis indicates may contribute to as many as several million deaths worldwide each year [4].

Taking advantage of the latest scientific tools and technologies, Hystad is launching a study called PURE-AIR, which will monitor how outdoor and indoor air pollution affects the cardiopulmonary health of people living in low, middle, and high income nations. His goal is to quantify more precisely the global health impact of air pollution and to develop better ways of measuring health risks associated with poor air quality.

PURE-AIR will be part of the existing Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, a global effort begun four years ago to track cardiovascular disease in 155,000 people in 17 countries for at least a decade.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.