Environment & Health
Air pollution impacts substantially on human health, the environment and economies. Billions of us are exposed to outdoor air pollution on a daily basis, and rapid urbanisation is increasing urban air pollution in major cities, especially in developing countries.
The Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s aims to determine the causal factors and impacts of air pollution on health through a combination of air pollution science, toxicology and epidemiology. The group is one of the leading providers of air quality information and research in its field. Scientific evidence from the ERG’s research informs policy makers in the UK and wider world and includes contributions to the WHO Air Quality Guidelines and review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution’ and ‘health risks of air pollution in Europe’ as a part of the European Commission’s review of their air quality legislation.
The ERG is also part of the cross-institutional MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health – led by Imperial College London alongside St George’s University of London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Research interests and partnerships
The ERG carry out a comprehensive programme of research across areas including lung biology, measurement, modelling and science policy. Full details of all their work can be found on the Environmental Research Group webpages (link at the bottom of this page).
The team aims to understand the mechanisms by which air pollution impacts on human health, with a focus on gaseous pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide, as well as particle matter collected from air around vehicle exhaust.
Effective measurement of air pollution is a core step in the accountability chain which facilitates the assessment of air pollution health effects, targeted development of control polices and feedback on their implementation.
The ERG’s work around measurement aims to understand the sources of air pollution, to what extent people are exposed, the impact that this has on their heath and to provide the public with the necessary information to make choices regarding their exposure.
The ERG modelling group is one of the UK's leading providers of detailed dispersion modelling assessments, detailed urban emissions inventories and is increasingly working on research into the health impacts and toxicity of air pollution. Head of modelling Dr Sean Beevers is Co-lead (alongside Professor Martin Williams) of the MSc programme in Global Air Quality: Management & Science at King’s.
The work of the ERG to helps establish a strong scientific evidence base with which to inform policy makers on a global scale. The policy groups key interests are in areas which help form the basis of current understanding of atmospheric science issues, including emission sources, statistical modelling and developing insights into controlling factors of air pollution. The policy lead for the ERG, Professor Martin Williams is Co-lead (alongside Dr Sean Beevers) of the MSc programme in Global Air Quality: Management & Science at King’s.
Making an impact
Using air pollution findings to pave the way for new thinking about urban planning
Findings from the two and a half year research project could prove vital for the increasing number of people now living in crowded and severely polluted megacities as buildings continue to be constructed skywards.
By placing sensors that measure pollution levels on and in high-rise buildings in Hong Kong, and comparing these to health records of the residents, scientists hope to provide information that will help urban planning to minimise the effect of air pollution on urban populations.
Promoting policy-driven reductions in air pollution
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) is chaired by Professor Martin Williams. The Convention is one of the vehicles used by UNECE to improve air quality on local, national and regional levels and was first signed by member states in 1979. Since that time, it has been extended by 8 protocols identifying specific measures to be taken by parties to cut their emissions of air pollutants. 51 member states are now part of this convention covering North America and almost the entire European continent.
The Conventions recently commissioned report ‘Towards Cleaner Air’ has been released in time for the final round of EU negotiations on the revision of their National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, and calls for governments to take further action in improving air quality by reducing their harmful emissions.
Combating urban air pollution
A four year research project commencing in 2016 aims to investigate the effects of air pollution on cardiopulmonary disease in urban and peri-urban residents in Beijing. The AIRLESS project follows panels of residents in two contrasting areas of Bejing and maps their health in relation to assessments of their exposure to air quality. The collaborative project will make use of recent advances in both small sensor and chemical speciation technology to gather a detailed picture of the sources and behaviour of pollution and which of these should be prioritised for reduction in order to improve public health.
Education and training
- Global Air Quality: Management & Science MSc
Covering of all aspects of air quality from emissions, through measurement and modelling to exposure science and the impacts of air pollutants on health.
Find out more about the activities of the Environmental Research Group
05 July 2017