By Neale McDevitt
Earlier today, Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), announced that the Government of Canada is investing over $19 million in 37 state-of-the-art research projects as part of the Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) program. Included among the recipients was Marianne Hatzopoulou of the Dept. of Civil Engineering, who is looking at the impact of air pollution on the health of people engaged in active modes of transportation such as cycling and walking.
The press conference was held in the James W. McKee Jr. Business Lounge of the Desautels Faculty of Management and Goodyear couldn’t have picked a more perfect setting because, as he made clear, business is a key component to the CHRP program.
“As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said many times, science powers commerce,” said Goodyear. “Our government’s support of science fosters innovation, talent and ideas leads to better competitiveness and increased productivity and this is central to our ongoing efforts to address Canada’s social and economic challenges.”
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum thanked Goodyear for spearheading programs like CHRP.
“You spoke about jobs and prosperity and the government’s investment in science and it’s absolutely fundamental that you give leadership in this regard and we’re very grateful for it,” said Munroe-Blum. “I want to assure you that… not only have we attracted and retained outstanding talent from around the world to McGill… but in our own strategic planning and in the work conducted by our professors we’re contributing in all kinds of ways to the health and social well-being of Canadians both here in Quebec and across Canada.”
Hatzopoulou will receive more than $450,000 over three years for her research which measures ultrafine particles (UFPs) or particles of ambient air pollution in order to gather information about the exposure of cyclists and pedestrians to traffic-related pollution. The information will eventually translate into a set of policies and guidelines for the planning and design of urban micro-environments that will minimize the exposure of cyclists and pedestrians to air pollution.
At the press conference, Hatzopoulou said the driving force behind her research is to try to reconcile the divide between what engineers and urban planners want to do – to build denser cities and to encourage drivers and cyclists to share the streets – with the large body of evidence that tells us exposure to air pollution can have any number of negative health consequences, such cardiovascular and respiratory illness.
“We’ve already done a case study for Montreal and we found that most people who generate large amounts of a emissions [drivers] at an individual level are exposed to very low levels of air pollution and those who don’t generation emissions [pedestrians, cyclists, etc.] are actually breathing the worst air pollution,” said Hatzopoulou. “There’s no escape from air pollution so we have to try to minimize exposure.
“[The CHRP grant] is such an exciting funding opportunity and it will allow me and my team to engage in the research questions that we’ve been wrestling with,” said Hatzopoulou.
Watch a video of the announcement that also includes interviews about Prof. Hatzopoulou’s project: