RTI International researchers are tasked with helping scientists better understand the relationship between indoor cooking fire smoke and the health of children,

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded RTI a $2 million contract to redesign a personal exposure monitor that can be worn by young children.

“Understanding exposures is critical for protecting human health, but for years scientists and health officials have struggled in their attempts to collect accurate data regarding the exposure of smaller children to smoke from cooking fires,” said Charles Rodes, an RTI senior fellow who is the primary investigator on the project. “Enhancing our understanding of their exposures will help change how the world cooks.”

RTI already has developed a similar monitor called MicroPEM (micro-miniature personal exposure monitor). It collects real-time particle data as well as acceleration sensors to measure individual activity.

“The existing MicroPEM technology represents a tremendous leap in personal exposure science over prior and existing technologies,” Rodes said. “For the first time, we can simultaneously collect data on the levels and patterns of particle exposure for adults. The critical step now is to take it to the next smaller, less burdensome level that is appropriate for younger children.”

RTI hopes to produce a monitor that is about the size of a smartphone.

MTL Corporation will partner with RTI on the project, providing a tiny filter for the new monitor.

Columbia University, The Johns Hopkins University, Imperial College, and the Global Good Fund also are involved, forming an advisory board.

The project covers two years.

RTI recently won a contract from the Gates Foundation for design of an environmentally friendly toilet for use in the developing world.

RTI, an independent nonprofit research and development organization, operates in more than 40 countries and a staff of more than 2,800 people. 

[RTI ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of RTI stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]