Dozens gathered at the UMass Center in downtown Springfield recently to learn about the air quality in the Pioneer Valley. UMass Amherst Professor Krystal Pollitt presented her findings after conducting a series of research studies in Springfield.
“Exposure to environmental pollutants are thought to contribute to asthma in children,” said Pollitt. “Knowing the exposures means that we can find strategies to prevent asthma attacks – and even prevent children from developing it in the first place.”
During the presentation, Pollitt discussed some of the air pollutants and how they impact breathing for those with and without asthma. She informed the group of strategies to reduce the pollutants in the home, including common areas like the kitchen.
“When cooking you should be aware of the type of hood over your stove and turn it on,” she advised the group. “Put the hood to the maximum setting.” During a cooking demonstration, Pollitt and members of her research team used air quality monitors to show onlookers how an overhead hood reduces air pollutants in the home when cooking. In another demonstration, Pollitt showed how candles create black carbon that can also affect air quality. Other demonstrations by exhibitors included green cleaning strategies and new ways to measure lung irritation to air pollution.
The Springfield area was recently named the most challenging place in the United States for people with asthma by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. The free event was a joint effort to inform the community about air quality as part of Asthma Awareness Month, which is observed in May. It was hosted by the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition(PVAC) and UMass. The PVAC is a coalition of health professionals and institutions, community groups and residents, public health organizations, municipal and state agencies, academic institutions, schools, day care, and housing and environmental groups committed to improving asthma and environmental conditions that affect health in Western Massachusetts. PVAC is convened by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. To learn more about the coalition, visit www.pvasthmacoalition.org