Helping Measure the Impact of Air Pollution on South Metro Atlanta Children

Posted November 4, 2022

Researchers from the Georgia Tech’s School of Economics will look at the impacts of air pollution on students at 11 south metro Atlanta schools as part of a $498,401 grant to a community organization from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The funding announced this week will enable the Center for Sustainable Communities — led by School of Public Policy alumnus Garry Harris, MSEEM 2022 — to install air quality monitoring stations at south metro schools located in minority and low-income communities near highways. Vehicles are a significant source of air pollution.

Dylan Brewer, an assistant professor in the School of Economics and co-principal investigator on the project, will work with his colleagues, Assistant Professor Daniel Dench, and Chair Laura Taylor to study the impact of pollution at the eleven schools. Researchers will compare pollution and test scores at those schools to a control group located further away from major roadways. One goal is to assess how pollution levels impact student test scores.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) will develop an educational outreach program to help the students learn how to monitor air pollution at their schools in real time. Researchers hope that work will empower students to better understand the impact of air quality in their communities.

“Low-income and minority communities are often located near major sources of pollution. There’s growing evidence that these pollutants affect cognition and learning, potentially leading to worse educational outcomes. The more we know about these effects, the more we can do to mitigate the problems here in Atlanta and around the world,” said Brewer.

Kevin Caravati — the manager of the Energy and Sustainability Research Program at GTRI, Research Scientist Matthew Swarts, and Research Engineer Soniya Bhagat are the members of the GTRI educational outreach team.

Michael Chang, an atmospheric scientist in the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, will advise the team on pollution monitoring, quality assurance, and data analysis.

Brewer said the team hopes to have research findings to share by 2025.

The award is part of EPA’s American Rescue Plan-funded program to address health disparities arising from pollution and the Covid-19 pandemic. The EPA awarded $53.4 million to 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states. The Center for Sustainable Communities project is the only one selected in Georgia.

The School of Economics and the School of Public Policy are units of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

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Michael Pearson
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts