Blount to examine impact of air pollution on TB risk

Robert Blount, MD, MAS, Assistant Professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine, received a one-year $40,000 pilot grant from the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC). EHSRC funds and assists health professionals who have dedicated research targeted toward advancing knowledge of environmental health.

Dr. Blount plans to use these funds to continue his research on how fine particulate air pollution (PM 2.5) affects the risk of tuberculosis and how the particles could impede antimicrobial activity in the respiratory system. Dr. Blount, whose research focuses mainly on air pollution health effects, will examine the effects of air particles on the airways of children in Vietnam and whether these particles increase chances of tuberculosis.

PM 2.5 is the natural mixture of solid particles and water droplets in the atmosphere; for example, dust, ash, and soot are all considered PM 2.5. These particles pollute the air and can increase chances of lung diseases and damage airways if one is exposed to a significant amount. Dr. Blount will collect air particles in Vietnam and analyze their chemical and biological composition here. The EHSRC’s pilot grant will help provide resources for the analyses at the University of Iowa.

“[The research] has potential to help Iowans. Air pollution has a large impact on our environment, especially if you live near a factory that produces lots of air pollution,” said Dr. Blount, “We want to make sure our air is safe and healthy for everyone. While TB might not be a big concern in Iowa, there are other diseases that the polluted air could be affecting.”

Dr. Blount joined Internal Medicine in January of this year after completing fellowships in pediatric pulmonology and pulmonary critical care medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.