Douglas Brugge is a professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at UConn Health and is the Health Net, Inc. Endowed Chair in Community Medicine. He became chair of the department in March 2019 after serving as a public health professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He did his undergraduate education at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in biology and chemistry. His Ph.D. is in biology from Harvard University and he has an MS in industrial hygiene from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Brugge's teaching is in the areas of occupational and environmental health and community engagement in research. He directs the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH), a set of studies about ultrafine particles from traffic and their association with cardiovascular health risk (funded by NIEHS, NHLBI, EPA, HUD, and the Kresge Foundation).
Additional research has been on housing conditions and child asthma, second hand smoke exposure, asthma in Chinese and black immigrant communities, health communication, uranium mining in Native American and other populations, and research ethics.
Most of his work uses a community-based participatory research approach. He has over 160 publications and has a deep commitment to seeing research translated into policy and practice. He is in the final stages of writing a popular science-level book about nuclear power and climate change.
Areas of Expertise
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Washington University in St. Louis
- Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP)
- Indoor Air Quality Initiative
Heart attacks, cancer, dementia, premature deaths: 4 essential reads on the health effects driving EPA’s new fine particle air pollution standard
The Conversation online
Scientists have known since the 1993 Six Cities Study, which showed that people were dying faster in dirty cities than in clean cities, that exposure to PM2.5 increased the risk of lung cancer and heart disease. Subsequent research has linked fine particulates to a much broader range of health effects. Once a person inhales PM2.5, “it causes an inflammatory response that sends signals throughout the body, much as a bacterial infection would,” wrote public and environmental health scholars Doug Brugge of the University of Connecticut and Kevin James Lane of Boston University. “Additionally, the smallest particles and fragments of larger particles can leave the lungs and travel through the blood.”
CT homes, businesses are a ‘major source’ of air pollution. Here’s what experts think will help.
Hearst Connecticut Media print
A large and growing body of literature has regularly found links between air pollution, inflammation, dementia, asthma, stroke and heart attacks, even though regional air pollution levels are, on the whole, declining. “The literature is vast,” said Doug Brugge, chair of the University of Connecticut Department of Public Health Sciences and an air pollution researcher. He said that fine particulates and smaller particulate pollutants from fossil fuels have been overwhelmingly linked to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and even neurological decay.
Smoke over Connecticut raises risks for those with chronic conditions, not much threat to others
CT Insider online
Dr. Douglas Brugge, chair of UConn Health Department of Public Health Sciences, said that air pollution is “the single biggest environmental health problem in the world” in terms of mortality, even without smoke from faraway fires. “We’re already exposed to air pollution, right?” Brugge said. “It’s just usually not that apparent to us because it doesn’t blur the sky … The air pollution we’re exposed to that is not visible, that is not readily apparent, has substantial effects and is chronic.”
What health experts say wildfire smoke novices need to know
"The bad news is, there's no safe level" of inhaled particles from wildfire smoke, said Doug Brugge, a public health researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. "The higher the exposure, the worse the risks, but even at levels below the national safety standards, these particles can make people sick."
Professor sounds alarm over Canadian wildfire smoke
FOX 61 online
Dr. Doug Brugge from UConn says that the smoke can cause many health issues and people should stay safe.
UConn students built an air purifier out of furnace filters, a fan and duct tape and it traps COVID-19 virus. Here’s how they did it.
Hartford Courant print
Douglas Brugge, chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences in UConn’s School of Medicine, said there’s an even larger need for the do-it-yourself air filters. “There’s a need for these outside the U.S. and low-income communities here,” he said. “In the entire world, people are breathing air that’s polluted or has COVID in it or mold or whatever. So there’s a global need for low-cost air purifiers that can be deployed broadly in people’s homes and schools and workplaces.”
To restore trust in science, make it accessible; here’s how | Opinion
The Hill online
American trust in medical science is waning. Less than a third of adults — just 29 percent — report having “a great deal of trust” in medical researchers, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trust. For most of our careers, but accelerating during the COVID pandemic, there has been a worrisome gap between those of us who conduct research and the public. It’s time for both researchers and research funders to rethink and strengthen how they engage the communities around them — and to work closely with those communities to articulate research in a more meaningful way.
Air filters can scrub out pollutants near highways, reduce blood pressure | Opinion
The Conversation online
The big idea For people living near busy highways, using air filters indoors results in short-term improvements to blood pressure, according to a new study I co-authored. Next to busy highways and major roadways, there are high concentrations of air pollution – including exceptionally tiny, invisible and odorless ultrafine particles from burning fuel. My colleagues Neelakshi Hudda, Misha Eliasziw and I tested how using air filters indoors near a highway can reduce exposure to ultrafine and other particulate pollutants – and what effect that has on blood pressure.
Association between Residential Exposure to Air Pollution and Incident Coronary Heart Disease Is Not Mediated by Leukocyte Telomere Length: A UK Biobank StudyToxics
2023 Higher air pollution exposure and shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL) are both associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), and share plausible mechanisms, including inflammation. LTL may serve as a biomarker of air pollution exposure and may be intervened with to reduce the risk of CHD. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to test the mediation effect of LTL in the relationship between air pollution exposure and incident CHD. Using the UK Biobank (UKB) data (n = 317,601), we conducted a prospective study linking residential air pollution exposure (PM2.5, PM10, NO2, NOx) and LTL to incident CHD during a mean follow-up of 12.6 years.
Exposure to ultrafine particles and cognitive decline among older people in the United StatesEnvironmental Research
2023 Background: Some studies suggest that ambient particulate air pollution is associated with cognitive decline. However, the findings are mixed, and there is no relevant research examining the influences of ultrafine particles (UFP), which may have more toxicity than larger particles. We therefore conducted this study to investigate whether residential UFP exposure is associated with cognitive decline using data from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers in the United States. Methods: This is a longitudinal study of participants who were aged 65 years and older and had normal cognitive status at baseline. Residential UFP exposure, expressed as particle number concentrations (PNC), was assessed in 2016-2017 using a nationwide land use regression model, and was assigned to each participant using their 3-digit residential ZIP codes.
On the Need for Human Studies of PM Exposure Activation of the NLRP3 InflammasomeToxics
2023 Particulate matter air pollution is associated with blood inflammatory biomarkers, however, the biological pathways from exposure to periferal inflammation are not well understood. We propose that the NLRP3 inflammasome is likely stimulated by ambient particulate matter, as it is by some other particles and call for more research into this pathway.
Relationship between traffic-related air pollution and inflammation biomarkers using structural equation modelingThe Science of The Total Environment
2023 Background: Evidence suggests that exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and social stressors can increase inflammation. Given that there are many different markers of TRAP exposure, socio-economic status (SES), and inflammation, analytical approaches can leverage multiple markers to better elucidate associations. In this study, we applied structural equation modeling (SEM) to assess the association between a TRAP construct and a SES construct with an inflammation construct. Methods: This analysis was conducted as part of the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH; N = 408) study. Air pollution was characterized using a spatiotemporal model of particle number concentration (PNC) combined with individual participant time-activity adjustment (TAA).
Adapting an In-Home Randomized Intervention Trial Protocol for COVID-19 PrecautionsInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
2023 Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the status of clinical trials in the United States, requiring researchers to reconsider their approach to research studies. In light of this, we discuss the changes we made to the protocol of the Home Air Filtration for Traffic-Related Air Pollution (HAFTRAP) study, a randomized crossover trial of air filtration in homes next to a major highway. The senior authors designed the trial prior to the pandemic and included in-person data collection in participants' homes. Because of the pandemic, we delayed the start of our trial in order to revise our study protocol to ensure the health and well-being of participants and staff during home visits. To our knowledge, there have been few reports of attempts to continue in-home research during the pandemic.