Baltimore Students Help with NIEHS Air Pollution Research
Passengers on the city buses in Baltimore weren't too sure what to make of the high school students they saw this summer, each wearing a strange and noisy electronic "blue box" device, plastic hoses slung over their shoulders.
Some of their fellow riders backed away, seeming to fear the students were suffering from a dread disease.
In fact, the students were participating in research to find out what contaminants they encountered in the air on their daily rides to school.
The 2-week portable monitoring phase of the study ended in July, but the students continued working with professional scientists to analyze the samples they collected.
The work is part of a 4-year, $600,000 grant to the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Environmental Health Education Center from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, under its environmental justice program, to encourage communities to take an active role in research on, and prevention of environmental pollution and related disease.
Six students in all, such as Gia Grier and Joseph Jenkins V, both 16-year-olds recommended by their teachers and principals, were paid $5 an hour to participate for 6 weeks in the program, which introduces them to careers in science and the environment as well as providing what amounts to a summer job.
A fringe benefit was that the group was the subject of a Baltimore Sun newspaper feature article and photos.
Two major sources of pollution, especially on the street, are the city's fleet of diesel sanitation trucks and city buses. With transfers, it is not unusual for a student who commutes to spend 2 hours or more each day traveling to and from school or work.
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