Category Archives: Dan Jaffe

How effective is your face mask?*

*Fit means more than fabric.

Have you wondered how effective your cloth mask is in protecting you from the COVID-19 corona virus?  We wondered that too, and this led to our newest research project—studying the effectiveness of cloth face masks. Shahbaz Qureshi, a 2020 UWB Biochemistry graduate, and Praphulla Boggarapu Chandra, postdoctoral researcher, have been working with Dr. Dan Jaffe on testing mask effectiveness. Their research was featured on KIRO 7 news, where Dan Jaffe was interviewed by reporter Jessica Oh.

Shahbaz Qureshi doing mask research

Shahbaz Qureshi adjusts a cloth mask on a mannequin head in an experiment testing the mask’s effectiveness. Photo credit: Marc Studer.

The preliminary research results show that for filtration, fit is more important than the mask material: Tight-fitting masks were twice as efficient in stopping aerosol particles as looser masks. “All masks reduce the particulate—the aerosols you’re putting out in the world and the aerosols you’re breathing in—both ways to some degree,” Jaffe said. “If you wear it properly and you have a tight-fitting mask, it reduces it a lot more.” Dr. Jaffe also plans to present the mask problem to his Quantitative Environmental Analysis class in the upcoming Autumn quarter. “Students will for themselves see: How good is my mask, and how important is the fit?”

Watch the KIRO7 news video on the mask research

Read more about the mask research on the UW Bothell News page

New critical review of wildland fire impacts on air quality

Dr. Dan Jaffe is the lead author on a critical review that examines the processes that influence wildfires and prescribed fires and their effects on air quality in the U.S. This review, “Wildfire and prescribed burning impacts on air quality in the United States,” is published in the June issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. This paper is the result of a collaboration between Dan Jaffe and Susan O’Neill, Narasimhan Larkin, Amara Holder, David Peterson, Jessica Halofsky, and Ana Rappold. These coauthors have brought their range of expertise to the issues related to wildland fires and have examined each of the processes influencing these fires and also the effects of the fires, “including the natural role of wildland fire, forest management, ignitions, emissions, transport, chemistry, and human health impacts.”

Large wildfires in the U.S. are becoming more common, and their emissions of particulate matter (PM) and gaseous compounds negatively impact air quality and human health. The air quality trend in the U.S. has been improving in the last decades. However, seasonal wildfires threaten to undermine this progress in parts of the country. The area burned by wildland fires has grown significantly in the last few decades due to “past forest management practices, climate change, and other human factors.” This has resulted in millions of people experiencing high levels of air pollution. As cities and towns have spread further into wildlands, costs for fire suppression (to protect human developments) and the consequences of fires have increased significantly.

U.S. wildire area burned and federal suppression costs for 1985-2018

Total U.S. wildfire area burned (ha) and federal suppression costs for 1985–2018 scaled to constant (2016) U.S. dollars. Trends for both wildfire area burned and suppression indicate about a four-fold increase over a 30-year period. Data source: National Interagency Fire Center, Fire Information Statistics, accessed December 2, 2019. https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html.

In this review, Dr. Jaffe and his coauthors describe the current state of the research and identify key data gaps. Their goal is to identify areas that are well understood and areas that need more research. They recommend eight specific areas for future research.

Read the paper here

Free paper eprints available here

Dan Jaffe selected as subject matter expert for EPA pool reviewing PM and O3 standards

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Dan Jaffe as one of 12 subject matter experts supporting the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASC) in its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM) and ozone (O3).  The pool of experts will provide technical expertise to the CASC as it reviews the US EPA’s NAAQS. The CASC will in turn provide the EPA administrator with independent advice on the technical basis for the NAAQS.

“This appointment represents an opportunity to use my scientific expertise to support the EPA’s decision-making,” Jaffe said. “The long-term goal should be that our environmental laws, rules and regulations be based on the best available science and be designed to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.”

Read the news release by the EPA

Read a news release by UW Bothell

Communal support for residents suffering from smoky air

Public officials in several western regions and communities are identifying ways to shield residents from smoke-filled air and to offer communal support when  residents are faced with poor air quality and the impact of climate change. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor looks at initiatives such as the city of Seattle’s program in which five public buildings were set up as clean-air centers where residents can take shelter if summer wildfire smoke impacts air quality. Dan Jaffe, along with Alex Margarito (UW Bothell graduate) and Rebecca Rickett (UW Bothell student), are working with the city to analyze the effectiveness of these clean-air centers.

In other action, two US senators are introducing “legislation that would provide federal funding to communities to improve ventilation systems in public buildings and set up emergency smoke shelters.” A California state assemblywoman also proposed a state program to improve “ventilation systems in schools, libraries, and community and senior centers” so that residents have a safe haven when air quality is poor.

The particulate matter in smoky air is a health hazard that affects everyone but hits the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, the hardest. In addition to the physical toll, residents facing wildfire smoke may experience negative mental health effects. Researchers at the University of Montana in Missoula Human Dimensions Lab  found that bringing residents together can help alleviate anxiety. As Libby Metcalf, lab co-director, says, “There’s a need to have a community gathering space to share stories about wildfire…It’s a way for people to feel like they don’t have to face what’s happening on their own.” The American Psychological Association also identifies communal support as an essential remedy to the depression and desolation that people may experience as they cope with the impact of climate change. Officials such as Julia Reed, senior policy adviser to the Seattle mayor, also see the need to bring people together: “All of us see climate change happening right outside our window,” she says. “Coming together is a way to make people feel less helpless.”

Read the full article here.

Wildfire smoke impacts indoor air quality

The last two years in Seattle were the worst on record for wildfire smoke and its impact on air quality. Smoke-filled air contains fine particles of 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller (PM2.5), which pose a significant health risk because they can move deeply into the lungs. When the air quality outside is “unhealthy for all” according to the EPA because the PM2.5 level is above 55 μg/m3, residents are told to remain inside as much as possible. This occurred 2 days in 2017 and 4 days in 2018. The very young, elderly, and sensitive individuals are particularly at risk to air quality with PM2.5 above 35 μg/m3. However, is the air inside that much better? Even with the windows and doors closed, is the air inside at a healthy level during a smoke event?

Worst ever smoke in Seattle on Aug. 21, 2018

Seattle experiences the worst smoke ever (PM2.5 of 110 μg/m3) on August 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of Dan Jaffe.

Last August during a smoke event in the region, Dan Jaffe was curious about the air quality in his office at UW Bothell and elsewhere on campus. He and Alex Margarito, a recent UW Bothell grad who was then a student in Jaffe’s research group, took measurements in Jaffe’s and other offices on campus, in classrooms, and in Jaffe’s Seattle home. They discovered that the inside air was often bad. On August 22, Jaffe measured PM2.5 of 100 μg/m3 inside his office in Discovery Hall at UW Bothell. “You couldn’t tell that it was that bad inside until you actually took the measurements,” Margarito said. “What we found is that the air inside buildings eventually can get near the same levels as what’s outside. So sitting inside is not going to do that well for you.”

This summer Alex Margarito and Rebecca Rickett, a UW Bothell Biochemistry major, are working with Seattle Parks and Recreation to monitor and analyze indoor and outdoor air quality. This project is part of Seattle’s pilot program in which they installed enhanced filtering at five buildings in the city to offer residents an oasis if a smoke event hits the area. The city has also installed several low-cost sensors to measure air quality in several locations around the city.

Joelle Hammerstad, sustainable operations manager at Seattle Parks and Recreation, is excited that the city is partnering with Dan Jaffe and Margarito and Rickett on this project. “Bigger picture, we’re trying to understand the situation at our facilities when we have poor air quality,” Hammerstad said. “Are the measures effective?”

The city is also thinking about climate change. “This is a critical, pivotal moment where we’re refocusing how we’re thinking about climate change. We’re thinking about resilience, adaption,” Hammerstad said. “How do we help front-line communities get through this—communities that don’t have the resources to easily adapt to a changing climate?”

Read more on the UW Bothell website.