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RFA 20-1B Air Pollution, COVID-19, and Human Health

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RFA 20-1B

Request for Applications 20-1B solicits applications for research on novel and important aspects of the intersection of exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 health outcomes. Applicants will be asked to submit a detailed letter of intent, followed by an invited full application, using an expedited application review process. HEI is particularly interested in applications that address the following questions:

(1) Accountability research: What are the effects of the unprecedented interventions taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic on emissions, air pollution, and human health?

(2) Susceptibility factors: Are individuals/populations who have been chronically or acutely exposed to higher levels of air pollution at greater risk of mortality from COVID-19 compared to those exposed to lower levels of air pollution? Do the effects differ by race/ethnicity or by measures of socioeconomic status?

RFA 20-1B and instructions [posted May 19, 2020]

How to Apply

*** Please consult the Frequently Asked Questions before contacting HEI staff. Thank you! ***



HEI requires applicants to send a two- or three-page Letters of Intent to provide information on the likely response to the RFA and to organize the application review process. It should include a synopsis of the project and study objectives, indicating the hypotheses to be addressed, qualifications of the team listing key members of the research team and their roles in the project, a list of all participating institutions, and access to relevant data (if applicable). An estimated total budget and study duration should be provided, choosing from the 2 options provided (i.e., a one-year or two-year study). A template is provided below. 

In addition, brief biosketches (maximum 2 pages per person) of the principal investigator and key co-investigator(s) should be provided. Applicants can use HEI form F-8 or another format, as long as each biosketch is no longer than 2 pages. The letter and biosketches should be turned into a combined PDF before submitting. Confidential or proprietary information on methodologic details should not be included in the Letter of Intent.

Deadline for Letters of Intent
Letters of intent should be submitted by e‐mail in PDF format to (subject line: PI last name RFA 20-1B Letter of Intent) no later than JUNE 8, 2020, with a copy to Ms. Lissa McBurney ( HEI will acknowledge receipt of the application.

All letters of intent received by June 8 will be considered. Researchers who miss the deadline for submitting a letter of intent should contact HEI as soon as possible to determine whether their application can still be considered.

Letters of Intent Evaluation Process
Letters of intent will be reviewed by the Research Committee at the end of June to determine relevance of the proposed research to the objectives of the RFA. If a large number of letters is received, it is at the discretion of the Committee to rank applications based on scientific merit and responsiveness to the RFA and invite a limited number of full applications. Applicants will be informed whether or not to submit a full application by early July. HEI may contact the applicant to advise him or her about how to make the application more responsive to the specific objectives of the RFA. For questions contact HEI at

FULL APPLICATION (by invitation only)

Investigators invited to submit a full application should use the forms provided below and consult the Instructions for Completing the Application. Please note that the required font size is 11 point with 1‐inch margins. The application forms should be turned into a combined PDF with appropriate bookmarks before submitting. Applicants should familiarize themselves with HEI’s study oversight and review procedures, which are more involving that a typical NIH proposal, see

Deadline for Full Applications

Invited Full Applications for RFA 20-1B should be submitted to (subject line: Your Name RFA 20-1B Full application) no later than SEPTEMBER 9, 2020. The application should be in PDF format with a maximum file size of 20 MB. Once the application has been submitted, please send a second email to without any attachments to notify HEI that your application has been submitted. HEI will acknowledge receipt of the application. Applicants will be notified about the funding decision by the end of October 2020.

Letter of Intent Due Date: 
June 8, 2020
Full Application Due Date: 
September 9, 2020

Ongoing studies funded under this RFA

Yale University

This multicountry study will evaluate whether changes in mortality are associated with changes in ambient NO2 and PM2.5 levels before, during, and after the lockdown and disentangle the short-term effects of NO2 versus PM2.5 on mortality. The analysis will be conducted in four countries: China, Germany, Italy, and the United States.

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University of California, Davis

This study will investigate the chronic and acute effects of air pollution exposure on COVID-19 incidence, mortality, and long-term complications, including onset of disease formation. Long- (2017−2018) and short- (2020) term exposures will be linked to a large medical records database in Southern California, with assessments at both the neighborhood and individual level.

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Columbia University

In this study the investigators will conduct a retrospective evaluation of the interactions between long-term exposure to air pollution and neighborhood vulnerability to adverse COVID-19 outcomes. They will investigate both single and multipollutant air pollution exposures in relation to COVID-19 hospitalization, inpatient length of stay, ICU admission, ventilator use, and death among a racially diverse population in New York City.

In review
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Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain

This study will test whether long- or short-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of COVID-19 hospital admissions or mortality and identify vulnerable subgroups among 6 million residents of Catalonia, Spain. The investigators will link air pollution exposures to residents’ addresses and inpatient and outpatient electronic medical records.

In review
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Publications from this RFA

Research Report 214
Zorana J Andersen
Jiawei Zhang
Youn-Hee Lim
Rina So
Jeanette T Jørgensen
Laust H Mortensen
et al

This report presents a study that evaluated whether there is an association between exposure to outdoor air pollution and the risk of COVID-19 incidence, hospitalization, and mortality in a cohort of 3.7 million Danish adults.