A first-ever partnership between NASA, epidemiologists, and health organizations will use data from a new NASA space mission to study how particulate matter air pollution affects our health.
Scientists have long known the air we breathe can be hazardous to our health. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 90 percent of the world’s population breathes air containing harmful levels of pollutants.
Airborne particulate matter (PM) is especially dangerous. Breathing these tiny, floating solid and/or liquid particles of organic and inorganic matter, also known as aerosols, results in more than 4 million premature deaths each year due to cardiovascular, respiratory, and other illnesses, according to a major international health study called the Global Burden of Disease.
Now a new NASA satellite mission currently in development promises to take research into the connections between PM air pollution and human health to new heights. The Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) investigation, targeted for launch in 2022, will produce unique maps of PM air pollution that epidemiologists will use to study how different types of PM – mixtures of particles with different sizes, shapes, and compositions – affect our health. The three-year investigation marks the first-ever partnership between NASA, epidemiologists and health organizations to use space-based data to study human health and improve lives.
“We know exposure to airborne particles from combustion of fossil fuels, traffic, smoke, and dust is associated with various diseases and even mortality,” said MAIA Principal Investigator David Diner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California. JPL is building the MAIA instrument and managing the investigation. “It is likely that infections from bacteria, fungi, or a virus such as COVID-19 can be exacerbated by air pollution-related health problems that people already have, making them more susceptible to severe illness and adverse health consequences.”