Texas A&M & BreezoMeter Find Major Public Health Risks in Landmark Hurricane Air Pollution Study

BreezoMeter was honored to join Texas A&M University for a scientific research project that linked hurricanes to serious spikes in air pollution. The research paper was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental research and public health as part of the Special Issue Combined Environmental Exposures/Chemical Mixtures.

What Was The Research About?

The impact of natural and anthropogenic (human-caused) climate and weather disasters has long been a cause for concern regarding air quality due to the potential of extreme weather events to spread air pollutants.

With their study, Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Impacts of Hurricane Florence on Criteria Air Pollutants and Air Toxics in Eastern North Carolina, Texas A&M sought to examine post-hurricane levels of air pollution in order to gain insight into the potential health risks linked to these phenomena.

The Environmental Intelligence Behind the Comparative Research

In order to look at air quality levels after Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina in September 2018, Texas A&M’s researchers turned to BreezoMeter to provide essential air quality data for scenarios where local monitoring stations had been taken offline or rendered inoperable by the hurricane.

By leveraging BreezoMeter’s innovative environmental modeling and forecasting technology,  researchers could accurately view air pollution dispersion in the impacted regions in coordination with three air sampling campaigns, which were carried out in eastern North Carolina immediately after the storm at four-month intervals.

The Results Speak Volumes: Higher Concentrations of Air Pollution Following Hurricane!

The study found higher concentrations of air pollutants Benzene and PM2.5 immediately after Hurricane Florence, exceeding national air quality standards in 74% and 66% in the majority of the area sampled. (Benzene is a gas found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust).

This research also revealed that both Benzene and PM2.5 levels were higher within urban areas and that Benzene levels were elevated around gas stations specifically.

As time passed after the hurricane, ambient PM2.5 and Benzene levels in the air decreased throughout North Carolina.

This Study Highlights Why Broad Environmental Forecasting Must Become a Staple of Public Health Research

These findings highlight a major problem: distributed air pollution can become a serious concern following extreme weather events like hurricanes, which come with obvious associated health risks.

Short-term exposure to Benzene is associated with dizziness, headaches, and loss of consciousness, and PM2.5 is widely acknowledged to be detrimental to respiratory health.

Whether air pollutants are dispersed as a direct consequence of a hurricane, or released as a secondary impact, such as a localized increase in the presence of recovery service vehicles, air quality after a natural disaster like a hurricane, is an important environmental consequence that we shouldn’t overlook.

The findings of our research also demonstrate the need for disaster relief task forces to leverage climate tech in order to optimize health responses during and after such extreme weather events.

A Final Word

The use of BreezoMeter’s environmental intelligence in this research serves as a landmark case for the value of climate tech for enhancing scientific research like this more broadly.

As part of our goal at BreezoMeter to improve the lives of billions across the world, we are proud to have partnered with Texas A&M here. We are also actively involved with the global AQ-Watch organization, which includes leading academic and research institutes from around the world.

With human-caused climate change driving more extreme weather events, studying and acting to reduce the impact of air pollution and other environmental hazards on public health is a top priority for us. 

Guide to Air Quality Technology

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Dr Gabriela Adler Katz

Chief Scientist @BreezoMeter. I hold an MSc & PhD in atmospheric science and formerly worked as a research scientist at NOAA. I believe it is my greatest duty as a scientist to bring science to the people!