BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo researchers are creating
a new and unusual "app" for the smart phone: tracking air
Carole Rudra, PhD, UB assistant professor of social and
preventive medicine, has received a grant to assess a person's
exposure over time to pollutants in an urban area -- in this case,
the City of Buffalo.
The study is funded by a two-year $440,247 grant from the
National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A city's air pollution varies from downtown to playground to
kitchen table, making it essential to be able to track study
participants' location and collect data throughout the day. Smart
phones equipped with GPS can do this very well.
"There are many ways to estimate air pollution exposures among
humans," says Rudra. "Many current methods are based on
participants' home addresses. These methods don't take into account
the fact that people don't spend all day inside their homes. In an
urban area, exposure changes significantly as people go about their
"To overcome this limitation in a way that is convenient for
study participants and feasible for future large studies, we will
use smart phones to track study participants' locations over 24
hours. Their location registers automatically, so they don't have
to call in or do anything else."
The 40 participants in the two-year study will use their own
GPS-equipped smart phones, such as iPhones or Androids, which will
record their location several times a day during a three-month
study period. Volunteers from Buffalo and surrounding areas will be
recruited in two waves -- summer 2011 and winter 2011-12.
Location will be defined by geographical coordinates, a system
that enables every location on earth to be specified by a set of
numbers. The researchers will check air pollution monitoring sites
in various locations to determine participants' exposure to a
number of pollutants.
"Air pollution is associated with a variety of health problems,
such as asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, COPD and other
conditions," notes Rudra.
An earlier study conducted by Rudra around Seattle, Wash., on
the health risks of air pollution in pregnancy found that it does
not increase the risk of preeclampsia or early delivery.
"This project will develop a method that will improve our
ability to estimate human exposures to air pollutants, and will
improve public health by allowing researchers to more accurately
measure human exposures and relate these exposures to health
The Department of Social and Preventive Medicine is part of UB's
School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Murat Demirbas, PhD, and Atri Rudra, PhD, of the UB Department
of Computer Sciences and Engineering, Enki Yoo, PhD, of the UB
Department of Geography, and Adam Szpiro, PhD, a biostatistician at
the University of Washington, are co-investigators.