Fact Sheet

Gulf Coast Aerosol Research and Characterization Program (GC-ARCH)


Funding Agency - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ($3.65 million)


Project Timetable


Principal Investigator - Dr. David Allen, Henry Beckman Professor in Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin for the past 4 years and Director of UT's Center for Energy and Environmental Resources (former chairman, Department of Chemical Engineering, UCLA)

Co-Principal Investigator - Matthew Fraser, Rice University


Project Summary

As a result of a successful proposal by air quality researchers, led by Professor David Allen at The University of Texas at Austin and Professor Matt Fraser at Rice University, the Houston area has been designated a particulate matter "supersite" by the U.S. EPA. Airborne particulate matter is a general term for a broad class of solid particles and liquid droplets, of varying composition, that remain suspended in the atmosphere for long periods of time. The particles can contain acids, heavy metals, biological material, soot, and a wide variety of additional chemicals. Recent studies have found strong associations between airborne particulate matter and adverse human health effects, including premature death, exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases, and decreased lung function, but it is not clear which components of the chemically complex particulate matter are responsible for the observed health effects. The Houston "supersite" and approximately 5 similar supersites distributed around the United States will improve our understanding of particulate matter and its relationship to human health.

The study involves collecting and analyzing air samples at three core sites near Houston and 20 peripheral sites around Houston. The three core sites include a site upwind of the heavily industrialized Ship Channel, a site downwind of the Ship Channel and a site downwind of the urban core.

Researchers will determine the chemical make-up of fine particulate matter, its sources and formation, its extent, variations between night and day, and variations throughout the year. They will also examine how particulate matter is transported, how it is affected by weather patterns, and how it affects lung tissue. The study will be coordinated with a 6-week intensive sampling program during August and September 2000, called the Texas Air Quality Study, which will be embedded in the 16-month EPA study.


Why Houston?

Houston has recently been cited as having the worst air quality of any U.S. city, surpassing Los Angeles in ozone concentrations. In addition, approximately 2.5 million people in the Houston area are exposed to potentially unhealthy annual average particulate matter concentrations. The unique collection of emission sources and the complex coastal weather patterns have made understanding air quality and pollutant exposures in the Houston area difficult.

Other Investigators From


Collaborating Institutions

Back to Supersite Home Page

To Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS 2000)

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Center for Energy and Environmental Resources
College of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin
Last updated: 10 February 2000