American Taxpayers Pay $240K to Help Improve Air Quality In Mongolia

By Curtis Houck | July 19, 2013 | 10:36 AM EDT

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, is the world's second most polluted city. (World Bank)

( - The Mongolian government - in partnership with the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles - will spend $240,000 of American tax dollars to improve  the eastern Asian country’s worsening air quality.

The Mongolia/Southern California Environmental Health Research and Training Center (MSCEHRTC) partnership will focus "on the consequences of atmospheric pollution and the introduction of sustainable control technologies on environmental health across the lifespan in Mongolia," according to the grant abstract approved by the National Institutes of Health.

"We are training young American and Mongolian pediatricians and public health students to monitor personal exposure to air pollutants in children and various occupations such as ambulance drivers and traffic cops and compare this to exposure data in LA," said the leader of the project, Dr. David Warburton, Professor of Pediatrics, Surgery and Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the hospital.

Asked about using American  tax dollars for such a project, Warburton said in an email to from Mongolia that he believes "this international capacity is a great use of U.S. tax dollars” and “will have an important impact on health and air quality policy worldwide."

Awarded on February 14th, the $240,104 NIH grant will also provide research opportunities for individuals with the Health Sciences University of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar and the University of Southern California (USC).

"Only $65,000 of this award are spent directly in Mongolia on things like monitoring equipment and training. A lot more is spent on training and capacity building with U.S personnel," Dr. Warbuton told

"Mongolia is a friendly country with tremendous upside potential for U.S. business,” he added.

“Advising and training them on how to approach the health effects of rapid urbanization is not only good for Mongolia, but also good for the U.S.’ reputation and is a test case for our cities at home. We are applying much that we have already learned in LA, and so UB is a wonderful place to perfect our interventions in a challenging real world setting."

When asked whether the Mongolian government will be receiving any of the research funds, Warburton replied, "It will not. My contacts with the Minister of the Environment have been extremely welcoming, professional and helpful. Over the past 15 years I  have never been approached for anything like that.”

According to the abstract, "this program will be sustainable because in response to evidence-based approaches by ourselves and other collaborators, the Government of Mongolia has recently demonstrated its practical commitment to the reduction of air pollution."

A  number of major Mongolian banks and government agencies will also participate in the research. They include Mongolia's Ministry of Mining and Natural Resources, Ministry of Energy, National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM), and National Office of Air Quality (NAQO) which is directly responsible for monitoring Mongolia's air quality.

A spokeswoman for the NIH did not respond to inquiries by