NASA Data Helps Track Veterans’ Exposure to Air Pollution

May 16, 2023 by Kiran Champatsingh

Professor Meredith Franklin's study on veterans exposure to air pollution was featured on NASA. Franklin’s team used satellite observations to create an exposure assessment tool called the Source-Differentiated Air Quality System (SDAQS). This web-based tool produces air quality information about each military base in a format that allows researchers at the VA and other institutions to directly access it through visualizations and data downloads.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some soldiers and support staff endured high concentrations of air pollutants. For example, military units often burned trash in large, open pits. The trash ranged from human and medical waste to plastics, chemicals, and mechanical parts. Most military personnel also faced exposure to fine dust from desert dust storms. NASA Earth science data can help identify such chemical and dust pollution and where it originated.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to use NASA Earth observations to study ways we can improve veterans’ health,” said Meredith Franklin of the University of Toronto. Franklin is the principal investigator for the project, which was a collaboration with the VA and with Petros Koutrakis of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The project was funded by NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Health and Air Quality program area.

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