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Ongoing Research

At any given time, HEI has a variety of ongoing studies at various stages of completion. Here, you will find a list of studies with more detailed information for each, including abstracts and posters presented at HEI Annual Conferences. We also indicate which studies have been completed and are currently undergoing HEI’s rigorous review process.

person directing traffic wearing a face mask
  • Low levels of air pollution
  • Traffic-related air pollution: exposure and health
  • Non-tailpipe emissions and exposures near roadways and in tunnels
  • Effectiveness of air quality interventions (Accountability)
  • Mechanistic studies of air pollution and health
  • Rosenblith Award New Investigators
  • Statistical methods development
  • Ongoing Studies

    Accountability Studies

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    University of Michigan

    This study will evaluate the National Clean Diesel Rebate Program, a lottery program that allocates available funding to school districts across the United States to replace or retrofit old-technology diesel powered school buses. Adar and colleagues will compare student health and educational performance in districts with and without such funding.

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    Carleton University, Canada

    The investigators will develop and apply a source‐ and location-specific database of mortality benefits per ton emissions reduction of NOx and other pollutants. 

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    McGill University, Canada

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    McGill University, Canada

    This study will focus on a coal ban and heat pump subsidy program in the Beijing, China, region. They are building on an existing panel study that is following about 966 people who live in 50 villages around Beijing. Half the villages are subject to the policy, the other half are not.

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    Oregon State University

    This study will assess the effects of emission-control measures on birth outcomes associated with traffic-related air pollution in Texas. Hystad and colleagues will evaluate air quality changes associated with national motor vehicle emissions regulations, as well as a diverse array of local congestion reduction programs implemented in Texas over the past 25 years.

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    Boston University

    This study will evaluate the major national regulatory policies that were implemented in China from 2008–2018. The investigators will focus on regulations in particular regions that target specific sources, such as coal combustion, and how they have reduced ambient concentrations of fine particles (and their components).

    COVID-19, Air Pollution, and Health Studies

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    University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    This study will investigate whether exposure to air pollution increases the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, and identify the most susceptible groups by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and comorbidities. Between March and December 2020, the investigators followed more than 3 million adults in Denmark. They will evaluate whether long- (40 years) and short- (1 year) term exposure to several common air pollutants increased the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality.

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    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.

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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.

    Enhanced Exposure Studies

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    Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Basel University, Switzerland

    This study aims to improve our understanding of the contribution of individual mobility in air pollution exposure estimates. The investigators will use location tracking on a mobile phone application for 2,000 individuals in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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    Utrecht University, Netherlands

    Hoek and colleagues will prepare maps of modeled annual average air pollution across the Netherlands, validate the maps using new measurements from over 100 sites, and evaluate the performance of several exposure models. The investigators will conduct cross-comparisons to evaluate how different exposure assessment methods compare in their ability to predict long-term pollutant concentrations, with a particular focus on spatial variability of pollutants.

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    King's College London, United Kingdom

    This study will investigate the consequences of measurement error on estimates of health effects of long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution in London by developing increasingly sophisticated exposure models.The investigators plan to compare exposure models that account for mobility, are based on exposure estimates at the residential address, and are based on concentrations measured at the nearest air pollution monitor.

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    University of Washington

    This study will compare and contrast scientific and logistical benefits of different approaches to air pollution exposure assessment. The investigators will leverage large air pollution datasets obtained from low-cost sensors, mobile monitoring, and passive samplers. They will apply the exposure assessment approaches to determine associations with cognitive decline and dementia incidence in an ongoing cohort study, Adult Changes in Thought Air Pollution (ACT-AP).

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    McGill University, Canada

    This study will evaluate health impacts of long-term exposures to traffic-related air pollution using exposure estimates from fixed-site and mobile measurement campaigns, as well as deep learning models, in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. The investigators will compare exposure estimates generated by these models to present-day and historical measurements, and to each other. 

    Epidemiology Studies

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    University of British Columbia, Canada

    This study will investigate mortality effects of low levels of air pollution in Canada using Canadian Census data from about 6 million people. The shape of the exposure-response function will be characterized using newly developed flexible non-linear exposure-response functions. See also this Program Summary of HEI's research program on low levels of air pollution. 

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    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

    This study will examine health effects of low levels of air pollution in the US using data from about ~56 million people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, they will develop new causal modeling methods to characterize the shape of the exposure-response function. See also this Program Summary of HEI's research program on low levels of air pollution. 

    Global Health Studies

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    George Washington University

    This study is estimating global ambient annual average NO2 concentrations and associated pediatric asthma at high spatial resolution (100m x 100m) for incorporation into the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD). The investigators will improve methods to estimate trends in surface NO2 concentrations from 1990 to 2018 and will update a systematic review of the epidemiological literature on NO2 and incidence of pediatric asthma to assess related worldwide burden of disease.

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    University of British Columbia, Canada

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    Washington University in St. Louis

    Identification of contributing sources is an important next step in research to address air pollution as a global health risk factor. This project will estimate source sector contributions to disease burden from ambient PM2.5 in 2017 at the national level for all ~195 countries and territories included in the Global Burden of Disease research program.

    Multiple Pollutant Epidemiology Studies

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    Utrecht University, Netherlands

    This is a large cohort study investigating long-term air pollution and cause-specific mortality in Asia, using pooled data from multiple cohorts in the Asia Cohort Consortium.

    New Investigator Studies - Walter A. Rosenblith Award

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    University of Colorado, Boulder

    This New Investigator Award study will investigate whether prenatal and/or early-life exposure to air pollutants affects the infant gut microbiota and fecal metabolome, thereby altering infant growth trajectories in the first two years of life. Dr. Alderete plans to study this in an ongoing longitudinal cohort of Hispanic mother-infant pairs in California with existing validated clinical assessments of infant growth trajectories. She will also use gut microbial profiling and high-resolution fecal metabolomics profiles to understand the mechanisms underlying the obesogenic effects of air pollutants in early life.

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    University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    This New Investigator Award study seeks to provide novel exposure–response functions for the effects of long-term exposure to ultrafine particles on several mortality and morbidity outcomes, while adjusting for exposures to other traffic-related air pollutants, road traffic noise, and socioeconomic status. The study makes use of a new Danish cohort of 650,000 adults.

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    University of Florida

    This New Investigator Award study seeks to develop statistical methodology that allows for complex relationships between air pollution and health outcomes to be used to estimate causal effects of multivariate exposures. Additionally, the proposed methodology will allow for evaluation of separate subgroups in the population to identify the most vulnerable subgroups.

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    University of California–Berkeley

    This New Investigator Award study will measure air pollutants in intensive campaigns with Google Street View cars in Oakland and Delhi and compare exposure estimates to conventional methods.

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    University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    This New Investigator Award study seeks to examine associations of long-term maternal exposures to PM2.5, NO2, and environmental noise with adverse birth outcomes in Accra, Ghana. The investigators also seek to determine the effect of these exposures on the risk of lower respiratory infections in infants.

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    ISGlobal, Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain

    This New Investigator Award study will evaluate whether prenatal air pollution exposure at different time windows is associated with development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and whether prenatal and postnatal air pollution exposure is associated with changes in brain structure and function in children. Dr. Guxens hypothesizes that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of ASDs, but not with an increased risk of autistic traits (subclinical deficits that do not meet formal criteria for autism spectrum disorder diagnosis).

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    University of Southern California

    This New Investigator Award study is evaluating how fine-particle exposure affects the development of prefrontal connections and emotional behaviors during the transition from childhood to adolescence and whether this, in turn, contributes to greater risk for neuropsychiatric disorders.

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    University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    This New Investigator Award study will evaluate whether air pollution is associated with increased incidence of asthma in 3 cohorts in Denmark.

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    University of California, Irvine

    This New Investigator Award Study investigates the mechanisms of formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by different types of secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), distinguishing between ROS formed by pollutants entering lung lining fluid (chemically) and by macrophages producing ROS as an inflammatory response (biologically). He will measure concentrations of ROS in epithelial lung lining fluid in macrophages exposed to SOA produced in a reaction chamber, with or without transition metals, using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy with a spin trapping technique or a chemiluminescence assay. 

    Traffic Exposure and Health Studies

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    ISGlobal, Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain

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    ISGlobal, Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain

    In this study, the investigators will recruit pregnant women in Barcelona and assess the effects of in-utero exposure to traffic-related pollution on birth weight, fetal growth trajectories, and placental function for each pregnancy. The investigators will estimate exposure to several pollutants and transportation noise and evaluate the roles of socioeconomic status, green space, physical activity, diet, and stress.

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    University of Southern California

    This study will assess the effects of metals from nontailpipe emissions on asthma and lung function in the most recent cohort of the Children’s Health Study in Southern California (recruited during 2002-2012), using available filters with particulate matter samples. The investigators will estimate exposure to several pollutants and transportation noise and evaluate the roles of socioeconomic status, green space, physical activity, diet, and stress.

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    North Carolina State University

    This study is exploring how traffic activity metrics, land-use parameters, and transport of pollutants influence the near-road concentrations measured through extensive sampling campaigns.

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    Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark

    This study will assess myocardial infarction, stroke, diabetes, and biomarkers related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in three large Danish cohorts.  The investigators will estimate exposure to several pollutants and transportation noise and evaluate the roles of socioeconomic status, green space, physical activity, diet, and stress.