Researcher Wins Award for Study Clearing the Air About Dust Hazard from Military Vehicles

Researcher Wins Award for Study Clearing the Air About Dust Hazard from Military Vehicles

Dec 19, 2004 5:00 PM

A University of Utah College of Pharmacy researcher has won a federal award for his team's work determining that the effect of small-particle dust created by military vehicles does not degrade air quality for the long term or far from the source.

John M. Veranth, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, received the 2004 Project of the Year Award from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP). SERDP is a joint program of the U.S Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Veranth is the principal investigator in a five-year, $860,000 study to help the military assess whether small-particle dust emissions from vehicles used in training operations on dirt roads and desert areas cause long-term damage to regional air quality and, if so, how to mitigate the problem. The dust is called PM2.5, referring to particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, a size small enough to easily become embedded in the lungs and cause long-term damage. The EPA established national standards to control the amount of PM2.5 dust in the air and to protect visibility in national parks.

"Basically, the research is showing that military training can cause very intense short-term consequences for air quality," Veranth said. "But most of the dust stops near the source. Our work suggests ways to improve current EPA methods for predicting dust emissions that consider the effects of weather conditions and site characteristics."

Veranth and colleagues from the University of Utah and the Desert Research Institute in Reno examined air quality at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Utah's Dugway Proving Grounds and Camp Williams. They monitored the downwind dust created by convoys at distances of 100 to 1,000 meters from where the vehicles passed. While dust was detectable at 100 meters, it could not be measured at 500 or 1,000 meters, leading Veranth to conclude that regional air quality near training areas does not suffer from military activity.

The research showed that vegetation growing along dirt roads, such as sagebrush in Utah and mesquite in Texas, helps limit how far dust travels.

When the EPA established the PM2.5 standards, military bases had to show whether their activities affected air quality and how to lessen the impact. For the final year of the study, Veranth and colleagues will provide data to help the military plan to meet or stay in compliance with the PM2.5 standards.

Veranth's research emphasis is in the health effects of particulate air pollution. He also is chair of the Utah Air Quality Board, which is part of the state's Department of Environmental Quality. Others involved in the study at the University of Utah included Kevin Perry in meteorology and Eric Pardyjak in mechanical engineering.

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