Study linking air pollution to coronary artery disease selected as best environmental epidemiology paper in 2016

June 30, 2017

The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) has selected a publication co-authored by faculty from the UW Department of Biostatistics as the Best Environmental Epidemiology Paper published in 2016.

The award-winning paper, Association between air pollution and coronary artery calcification within six metropolitan areas in the USA (the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution): a longitudinal cohort study, was published online in The Lancet on May 24, 2016.

The principal investigator of the EPA-funded Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (MESA Air) is Joel Kaufman, interim dean of the UW School of Public Health and professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, epidemiology and general internal medicine.   UW authors in addition to Kaufman include Lianne Sheppard, assistant chair and professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and biostatistics, and Adam Szpiro, associate professor of biostatistics.

The study demonstrates a biological connection between long-term pollution exposure and coronary artery calcification, an early manifestation of cardiovascular disease.  Prior to this 10-year study that involved thousands of Americans, it was unclear how exposure to particulate matter led to disease of the cardiovascular system.  “This was the most in-depth study of air pollution exposures ever applied to large study group specifically designed to examine influences on cardiovascular health,” Kaufman said in an article highlighting the research published in May 2016 by the UW School of Public Health.

According to Sheppard, “MESA Air represents a deep ‘team science’ collaboration between biostatisticians, epidemiologists, exposure scientists, and clinical scientists.” Another key ingredient in the study’s success is that EPA understood from the beginning the importance of developing cutting edge statistical methods for exposure and health effects inference.  Szpiro notes that the new statistical tools developed in MESA Air will be used for many years to come in future environmental epidemiology studies.

The recognition by the ISEE is given for outstanding contribution to the knowledge of environmental epidemiology and for its quality, originality, importance and expected impact.

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