BC Launches Global Observatory on Pollution and Health

Boston College announced that it has created a Global Observatory on Pollution and Health to raise awareness about the problems surrounding pollution. The observatory will be directed by Philip J. Landrigan, the recently hired professor who is also tasked with directing BC’s new Global Public Health Program.

The idea for the observatory emerged out of the October 2017 report in The Lancet that was co-chaired by Landrigan. The report, which found that pollution is responsible for 9 million premature deaths each year, recommended that a platform be created to observe pollution and its related diseases.

“The observatory is a think tank here at Boston College, in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions,” Landrigan said. “[The objective] is to produce very carefully written reports that highlight different aspects of the pollution problem.”

The first report that will be produced by the Observatory will be a study on the effect of air pollution on disease and the economy in India. India has more air pollution than any other country in the world.

Landrigan is also interested in producing reports on the impact pollution has on the health of children, since children are a highly vulnerable population, as well as the influence of pollution on cardiovascular disease. These reports will be conducted in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the leading authority tasked with protecting the global environment.

During the week, Landrigan and Vice Provost for Research and Academic Planning Tom Chiles traveled to New York to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations.

“This memorandum of understanding is a framework agreement,” Landrigan said. “It’s a pledge that we will work together on specific projects to be determined.”The observatory will be housed within the Schiller Institute, BC’s $150 million dollar science institute that will begin construction in 2019. It will be “the research arm” of the Global Public Health Program, according to Landrigan.

The observatory is currently in the process of hiring a data analyst, but will also largely rely on volunteers networks of scientists at BC and beyond. Undergraduates who study within the Global Public Health Program will be involved in research projects associated with Observatory, although the details have yet to be confirmed.

“The real goal is to use the reports to raise awareness about the problem of pollution in the minds of policymakers,” Landrigan said. “We firmly believe that pollution is a solvable problem.”

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff