Award Date

December 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Environmental and Occupational Health

First Committee Member

Lung-Wen Chen

Second Committee Member

Ge Lin Khan

Third Committee Member

Courtney Coughenour

Fourth Committee Member

Krystyna Stave

Number of Pages



Particulate matter (PM) consists of various small particles in the atmosphere that has been associated with environmental health risk factors for many deadly diseases. PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter and are both respirable particles that can penetrate the lungs and increase risk of cardiovascular problems and respiratory illness, among other health issues. Exposure to particulate pollution in the environment tends to cause lost income from work absence, students’ absences from school, hospital admissions as well as emergency and doctor room visits.

Although asphalt plants are important industry, they emit many pollutants, including PM2.5 and PM10, to the air during the production process that are dangerous to people’s health. Wells Cargo is an asphalt plant in Las Vegas located at the immediate north of Spring Valley High School. Spring Valley High School (SVHS) students and neighborhoods near the plant observe dust fumes frequently and are often forced to stay in their houses. As a result air quality in the area is of concern to the residents’ and students’ health, which led to widespread protests from students and residents in the community.

This study seeks to examine community exposure to particulate matter near Well Cargo, to assess the short- and long-term health risks, and to examine the contributions from Wells Cargo. A year-long air quality monitoring was conducted at SVHS that simultaneously measured PM2.5, PM10, wind speed, and wind direction in real-time in order to evaluate daily and annual pollution levels against air quality standards and how the pollution levels vary with wind conditions. In addition, we established a control site at the immediate north of Wells Cargo. Comparing concurrent PM measurements from the two site helps understand whether exposure is influenced by being upwind or downwind of Wells Cargo.

Between December 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019, the average PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations are 6.2 µg/m3 and 11.6 µg/m3, respectively, measured at SVHS, with the maximum 24-hour average of 14.9 µg/m3 and 50.0 µg/m3. There have been no exceedances to the EPA air quality standards. One-way ANOVA analysis shows that PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations depend significantly (p < 0.001) on wind speeds and wind direction. Higher PM levels appear to occur during higher wind speeds and northeasterly or southwesterly transport. There were appreciably differences when the school is upwind or downwind of Wells Cargo. The contributions from Wells Cargo are estimated to be 0–1 µg/m3 and 2–8 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and PM10, respectively, during windy events.

Overall, the air quality at SVHS and its surroundings is in compliance with the EPA standards. Although there is no indication of immediate threat to the public, actions should be taken to reduce PM emissions from the plant to reduce health risks for the most sensitive populations. Air quality alerts should be generated for high wind conditions so community and school personnel can take necessary protection.


Aerosol; Air pollution; Community exposure to particulate matter and its impact; Particulate matter; PM2.5 & PM10; Wells Cargo


Public Health

File Format


File Size

7.1 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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