Interview with Dr Tatiana Lary

Posted Thu, Jul, 09,2015

This author interview is by Tatiana Lary, of University of Texas. Dr Lary's full paper, Using Machine Learning to Estimate Global PM2.5 for Environmental Health Studies, is available for download in Environmental Health Insights.

Please summarize for readers the content of your article.
The section of the article to which I contributed looks into the correlation between the air pollution and mental health. To see this correlation we looked at two sets of data, publicly available NASA data of various air pollutants for the year 2002 specifically surrounding Baltimore area and Non-confidential data for Emergency room admissions for the city of Baltimore for the year 2002. The findings were both intriguing and sobering. We found correlation between the previously poorly studied air pollutant PM2.5 and people admitted to the ER with the diagnosis of unspecified schizophrenia.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
We live in a world that is continuous and not compartmentalized into separate subjects. It has been a trend among scientists in recent years to combine unlikely disciplines and discover both new problems and new solutions. This research was conducted for my second Bachelor's Honor's Thesis in Psychology. It combines the area of Atmospheric Chemistry and Psychology.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
Very little is known about PM2.5. Basically, its name is its size. It is so small that it is able to go through our body's defense systems and be absorbed into the blood stream. Due to its size, it is hard to determine PM2.5's chemical composition. This is the first study ever conducted that looked at a possible link between PM 2.5 and mental health.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
I believe it pulled back the curtain to the endless possibilities in new research and policy making. Corrupt environment does not only effect a climate change and increases respiration problems, it may be damaging to our very minds.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
It was exciting to see a statistically significant correlation between PM2.5 and unspecified schizophrenia. It is important to remember that we were using the data from ER where people call for help in extreme situations. This leaves us with a question, how many more people experienced similar symptoms in a milder form that did not seek professional help?


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