Monday, December 28, 2009
University of Pittsburgh researchers are trying to gauge the levels and types of environmental threats in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Dr. Dan Volz of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health is heading the study funded by a $250,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments. Volz says the Pittsburgh Environmental Threat Analysis will involve four layers of research. The team has already begun the first phase, which includes interviews with “key informants” in the region. Elected officials, regulators and academics comprise that first group. Volz says their concerns will then be used to build a survey to be sent out to a larger group of individuals and organizations. He says the preliminary results show that while the concerns are wide ranging most of them are nearly universal among the group. The third phase of the study will involve a review of newspaper and broadcast articles from the last several years to see if the current concerns are similar to those highlighted by the media. Volz says the researchers will then use all of the opinions and media reports as a framework to begin a review of scientific data from the region including air monitoring and disease tracking numbers produced by governments, foundations and the private sector. All the layers of data will be stacked on top of each other to build maps that Volz says will be unique. He says the report will evaluate threats in the region as a whole but the goal is to be able to drill down to individual municipalities and water sheds. The report is to be submitted to the funder in June with a final report released in October.