Air Quality in Buffalo to be Topic of Workshop Sponsored by UB Center for Biosurfaces

Release Date: December 9, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Toxic mold, bioaerosol contaminants from ship ballast, diesel-fuel exhaust and other threats to air quality in Western New York will be on the agenda on Dec. 10 at "Clean Air, Clean Walls, Clean Water," a workshop to be sponsored by the University at Buffalo Industry University Center for Biosurfaces (IUCB).

The workshop, designed to produce a blueprint on how companies, research institutes, and educational and government agencies can best tackle such problems, will be held beginning at 10 a.m. in the Cummins Room at the Buffalo Museum of Science. It is subtitled "Designing a Technology Roadmap to Secure Sanitation and Disinfection of Air-Transported Contaminants,"

The workshop will bring together researchers from UB and government agencies with those at small and large companies in the region that are concerned with threats to air quality with the goal of developing potential solutions through joint research programs and funding opportunities.

"At a time when increasing attention is being paid to issues related to air quality ranging from toxic molds and sick buildings to the threat of bioterrorism, it is important to be able to separate out just which contaminants in the air are causing health problems," said Robert E. Baier, Ph.D., professor of biomaterials in the UB Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences and IUCB executive director.

The workshop is related to IUCB's work under a grant from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) to conduct research on urban ecosystems.

"Part of what we plan to do at the workshop is to talk with local companies about how the resources and equipment we have obtained from NYSTAR can help us work together on these problems over the next five years," said Anne Meyer, Ph.D., director of IUCB principal scientist.

IUCB's work collecting and analyzing respirable aerosol particulates in the air passing over Lake Erie and through residential neighborhoods near the Peace Bridge will be discussed.

"The high incidence of asthma in these areas has been blamed on small particles in diesel-fuel emissions from Peace Bridge traffic, but other confounding contributions the IUCB now is monitoring include a municipal sewage treatment plant and the international-shipping ballast water discharge site located at the Welland Canal," Baier said.

Other issues to be discussed include monitoring air quality in health-care institutions, where infectious diseases may travel through ventilation systems; air-quality issues related to border security and homeland defense, and potential use of biodiesel fuels generated by plant matter instead of fossil fuels.

Also on the agenda will be a discussion of the phenomenon called "inadvertent bioterrorism," in which bioinvasive microbes from discharges of ballast water entering Lake Erie from ships using the Welland Canal are aerosolized and enter the Western New York air stream.

A device collect contaminants that was developed by Amherst-based Veritay Technology, Inc., and studied by IUCB, will be described at the workshop.

"We live in a background of particles," said Meyer. "The idea behind this workshop is to determine how to improve detection and contamination of unpleasant or nasty things that may come our way."

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