Have you ever wondered what kind of impact air quality has on individuals, organizations, and communities? Or the impact of air pollution from vehicles on our roads?
“Air pollution from road transportation is significant because it causes about 15,000 premature adult deaths in the U.S. per year,” said Ph.D.student John Olawepo.
Olawepo — a trained physician who worked in infectious diseases for eight years in Nigeria — is part of UNLV’s public health Ph.D. program, concentrating on global and environmental health.
Olawepo’s educational journey took him from Nigeria to England before he joined UNLV’s Global Health Initiative, a multidisciplinary collaboration among UNLV faculty, students, and public health experts to reduce health disparities around the world.
He is interested in how clean air affects people’s health, so he worked with professor L-W “Antony” Chen at UNLV’s Urban Air Quality Laboratory to assess the efforts of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) to convert the public transit fleet from using diesel and gasoline to natural gas.
“My job is to quantify the amount of pollutants that the RTC has prevented from getting into the air and look at what that has done to our health in terms of death, heart disease, respiratory disease, and loss of productivity at work,” Olawepo said.
He and his team take it a step further by translating this into dollars saved using the Environmental Protection Agency’s co-benefits risk assessment tool.
“The tool will help provide basic information about the deaths and illnesses you prevent and the amount of money you save on hospital visits, disability, and illnesses,” he said.
Using data from Southern Nevada and around the United States, Olawepo and his team will publish results that policymakers can utilize to support this program across the states, preventing deaths and improving quality of life.