University of Pretoria partners with NASA to study effects of air pollution on health

United States of America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is partnering with   the University of Pretoria (UP) to work on research towards measuring and assessing air pollution and its association with respiratory diseases, using space data.

This is the first time that NASA has partnered with researchers to use space-based data to study human health and improve lives. The NASA Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) project will involve epidemiologists and health organizations who will take part in the study at sites across South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia.

According to Janine Wichmann, head of the Environmental and Occupational Sciences Division at the School of Health Systems and Public Health at the University of Pretoria, and the principal investigator of the Maia project, the main aim of this global project is to find out the degree to which fine particulate matter contributes to human health effects, such as respiratory disease.

“By understanding what’s in the air we breathe and just how toxic it could be, we can make decisions to establish global standards for our air quality, and develop strategies to control air pollution with a targeted approach,” she added.

The MAIA satellite is due to be launched in 2022 and will orbit Earth for two years until 2024. According to NASA, the satellite will generate comprehensive information on particle size distribution, shape and light scattering, as well as absorption for a set of globally distributed target areas.

The MAIA project, which was announced by NASA in 2016 as part of its Earth Venture, was envisioned as a departure from conventional methods of assessing air quality.

Photo courtesy / Pixabay

Article by Jedidah Mwangi