UMass Amherst Center Offers New Videos on ‘Research that Matters’

AMHERST, Mass. – This week the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) released two new videos that highlight the work of an environmental toxicologist and an air quality scientist.

CAFE director Jody Jellison says, “Meaningful research being conducted at UMass that impacts our lives in positive ways is of great interest to the public. These short videos, with links to more information, are intended to get the word out.” 

Wood Smoke From Pellet Stoves and Health

New technology in the form of pellets made of compressed wood make modern wood heating much more convenient, acknowledges air quality scientist Rick Peltier of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, but we do not yet know whether burning this fuel could be harmful to health. His research aims to support smart energy choices that protect human health.

With support from UMass Clean Energy Extension, he is using a mobile air quality sampling laboratory to help answer this question. Peltier is examining data captured from equipment that measures particulates in the air. This data should help to indicate whether pellet emissions may be harmful for a community, which is important information for policy makers, industry leaders, scientists and families.

Can Fruits and Vegetables Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

Kathleen Arcaro, environmental toxicologist, with colleagues in nutrition and epidemiology, are studying young breastfeeding mothers for signs of inflammation that can signal cancer risk. She is looking for a possible link between increased levels of a helpful, normally-occurring hormone in breast milk and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

In a pilot study, Arcaro asked nursing mothers to eat a wide variety of dark-pigmented vegetables in color categories – orange, yellow, red and green. A trained nutrition counselor provided fresh produce to the five participating women for 12 weeks. They in turn provided breast milk samples for testing. In the analysis, Arcaro found in this small sample that levels of the healthy hormone did go up as consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables increased. She now has a long-term research study under way.

UMass Extension is the Massachusetts partner in the national Cooperative Extension System, a public university network of outreach educational units linked through its federal partner, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Massachusetts, Extension education began at Massachusetts Agricultural College, predecessor of UMass Amherst, in 1911 and was formalized at the national level in 1914. Today, UMass Extension has programs in agriculture and commercial horticulture, 4-H youth development, clean energy and nutrition education. It also supports work in water resources, environmental conservation, food science and food safety.

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