Target: Harvey Jeffries, Professor Emeritus, and Will Vizuete, Associate Professor, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill
Goal: Commend University of North Carolina professors’ air safety research
Many cities have air-sniffing monitors to measure levels of chemicals in the air. While these monitors can detect potentially harmful chemicals, they cannot determine whether or not the air is actually safe for people to breathe. It is very difficult to determine what chemicals, amounts of these chemicals, or combinations of these chemicals, can harm people. Currently, professors Harvey Jeffries and Will Vizuete at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill are creating a machine that uses human lung cells to accurately detect when airborne chemicals are dangerous.
In order to develop the machine, researchers create dirty air through the use of a greenhouse. The air within the greenhouse begins clean, and through the use of pipes that draw exhaust directly from tailpipes, it is possible to “…create any kind of atmosphere in [there] that simulates any place on the earth,” according to Jeffries.
Thus far, the research has uncovered startling information about the way sunlight affects chemicals in the air. As reported by NPR, Jeffries “…suspects that sunlight triggers these particles to soak up nasty chemicals in the air. The particles, which might start out as a puff of carbon in diesel exhaust, get transformed into little packages that deliver chemicals deep into lung tissue when [one] inhale[s].” This demonstrates that determining how harmful airborne chemicals are depends on more than just the amount present; the environment plays a much larger role than originally thought.
The machine that Jeffries and Vizuete created contains small indentations in which samples of human lung cells grow. When polluted air from the greenhouse passes the machine, the cells send out hormone-like distress signals when the air is harmful to breathe. The more signals, the more harmful the air is. Although the first prototype of this machine is still under construction, in the future, it may be able to be mass produced and placed in cities. This would allow scientists to monitor the health of the air and alert the city to any biological hazards. The machines in current use are capable of recognizing chemicals, but are not capable of determining if they are harmful, leaving people open to inhaling air that is detrimental to their health.
By conducting this research, Jeffries and Vizuete have shown a commitment to improving the health of people across the United States. By signing the petition below, you will commend them on their efforts.
Dear Harvey Jeffries and Will Vizuete,
Your air safety research is deserving of praise. Uncovering what chemicals and environmental factors cause air to be harmful to people’s health is important to finding solutions to air pollution and bettering the environment as a whole. Your work, while providing beneficial information, goes one step further; by striving to create a machine that will accurately detect biological hazards in the air, you show a true commitment to helping people across the nation.
Even though the machine is still in its first stages of creation, the innovative thinking behind it is admirable and serves as a model for other universities and researchers. We would like to commend you on your efforts.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr.com