Nadadur serves in India as first NIEHS U.S. Embassy Science Fellow
By John Yewell
The U.S. Embassy Science Fellows Program has provided about 300 scientific and technical experts to U.S. embassies around the world since its inception in 2001. The program enables embassies to host U.S. government scientists and engineers for up to three months, to address science and technology issues and expand cooperation with host country institutions.
Srikanth (Sri) Nadadur, Ph.D., NIEHS program director for Nanotechnology Environmental Health and Safety and the environmental cardiopulmonary health research programs, has become the first NIEHS scientist to participate.
Focus on air quality
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” said Nadadur, who arrived Aug. 25 in his native India. His 90-day fellowship will focus on research and bilateral consultations on urban air quality. Nadadur will work with interagency colleagues to promote health systems and preparedness, as well as counter antimicrobial resistance. These projects relate to the Global Health Security agenda, an effort to fight infectious diseases and promote health as part of an international security priority.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for international collaboration,” noted Gwen Collman, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training, who nominated Nadadur for the fellowship. “Sri brings with him all the strengths of NIEHS, but especially his scientific expertise with air pollution and associated health effects.”
David Boxer, environment, climate, and science unit chief at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, said Nadadur’s arrival was eagerly anticipated. “Your expertise will facilitate bilateral cooperation to improve air quality in urban areas, as well as help us move toward a world safe from infectious disease threats,” Boxer wrote.
India’s pollution crisis
Nadadur arrives at his post in New Delhi not a moment too soon. The city heads a list of 25 cities identified by the World Health Organization in 2014 as having the worst average annual ambient air pollution. In fact, the top four cities are in India, as are nine others.
He will meet with Indian government officials and nongovernmental organizations, all while doing considerable public outreach. “Their information on the health affects of air pollution is limited,” said Nadadur. “Education is important.”
One of his goals is to demonstrate that economic progress and a cleaner environment go hand in hand. “You can try to improve living standards, but if you ignore the environment you are never going to solve that [living standards] problem,” Nadadur noted.
President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a joint statement Jan. 25 affirming their commitment to cooperation in improving air quality and their pledge to implement the Global Health Security agenda.
Two weeks later, at the 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, the Indian Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change called on citizens of India to assert their right to clean air. These political developments enabled the U.S. Embassy to make a strong case for securing an embassy science fellow, particularly one with Nadadur’s skills and background.
Nadadur’s to-do list
Among the dozen objectives on Nadadur’s to-do list is monitoring exposure to fine particulate matter experienced by U.S. Embassy employees and thousands of U.S. citizens living in India, and educating them on how to reduce the health challenges posed by air pollution. Working with the embassy’s Public Affairs Section, he will also help implement the Combatting Air Pollution in North India program.
Nadadur said that an important early assignment will likely be to support the implementation of a technical collaboration proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to partner with its Indian counterpart, the Central Pollution Control Board, to improve urban air quality.
Perhaps most importantly, Nadadur will meet with scientists both with, and independent of, the Indian government. Building scientist-to-scientist ties is at the heart of the strategic bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India, according to Boxer. “People-to-people ties nourish our belief in democratic values and sow the seeds for greater collaboration in the future,” he said.
“My goal is to say, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Nadadur. “The knowledge is here, use this knowledge and see what you can do. It is time to act.”
(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)