A project funded by the Research Corporations's Partners in Science program

Personnel: Dr. Dan Jaffe, Janet Ricker, West Valley High School, Margaret Isbell, Ph.D student UAF

Project Description:

The city of Fairbanks Alaska has a population of approximately 50,000 residents. Despite its relatively small size, violations of the EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon monoxide (CO) occur regularly each winter. This is a result of the significant vehicular sources of CO and strong meteorological inversions which occur during winter in Fairbanks, both of which are related to our very cold temperatures. Based on our preliminary work other pollutants, especially benzene, a potent carcinogen, are also substantially elevated at this time and may contribute to health impacts in the Fairbanks. This probably results from the high benzene content of gasoline in Alaska, up to 5% v/v, which is the highest in the nation [Gordian and Guay, 1995].

To address the sources and health impacts of these air pollutants we will use a combination of direct measurements and statistical analysis. Measurements of carbon monoxide are conducted using a non-dispersive infrared gas analyzer which is available in the PI's research lab. The instrument is calibrated using an "EPA protocol" calibration standard of CO and interfaced to a personal computer (PC). The measurements of benzene are conducted by gas chromatography with flame ionization detector (GC-FID) and with a gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer (GC-MS) detector. Both instruments are available at the University of Alaska for this work and have been previously used for these measurements. Measurements of CO and benzene will be made simultaneously at West Valley High School during the winter months. West Valley High School is located in the Fairbanks urban area and is the school of our participating teacher, Janet Ricker. Knowing the magnitude of the CO sources [Veazey 1993] in the Fairbanks area and the relationship between benzene and CO, we can estimate the size of the benzene source and the contribution from automobiles. The benzene air concentrations can also be used to estimate the incidence of pollution related disease, similar to the method used by Guerra et al. [1995]. Measurements of benzene will also be conducted in a number of homes to assess personal exposure in this environment. Previous measurements in Alaska have indicated that very high benzene exposures are found in homes with attached garages, due to evaporation and the high benzene content of Alaskan gasoline. These measurements will be made using small portable samplers based on charcoal adsorption tubes and/or commercially available exposure badges (e.g. 3M type). In addition we will conduct a comparison of these two methods and statistical analysis to assess the accuracy of our data.

Statistical analyses of health and air pollutant data will be conducted in collaboration with local medical personnel (MD's), including Dr. Mary Ellen Gordian and Dr. Chris Todd. Instrument methodological development and statistical analyses can be conducted during the summer. This is a significant task which will utilize the high school teacher, Janet Ricker. In addition, we intend to utilize high school students during the school year to make measurements as part of this research. Many of these students will likely choose to present their work on this project in our statewide science fair called the "High School Science Symposium". Some of the discretionary funds in this project may be used to pay high school student salaries for this part of the work.

Gordon M.E. and Guay G. Benzene in Alaska. Alaska Medicine. Jan 1995, 25-36.

Guerra G., et al., Benzene Emissions From Motor Vehicle Traffic in the Urban Area of Milan: Hypothesis of Health Impact Assessment. Atmospheric Environment 29, 3559-3569.

Veazey D. Carbon Monoxide Emissions in Fairbanks, Alaska. M.S. thesis, University of Alaska Fairbanks, December 1993.