Air Pollution Solutions for Vulnerable Groups (CleanAir4V)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

Air pollution causes 29,000 pre-mature death and cost the economy £20 billion per year in the UK alone. A majority of these impacts are associated with Vulnerable Groups (VGs), who are most strongly affected by air pollution with up to ca. 12 life years lost for the individual. Children (VGI) & people with pre-existing medical conditions (VGII) are of particular concern in terms of long-term health, societal & economic impacts. Despite this, most of the efforts in air quality improvement focuses on the general population and outdoor exposure. This leads to major gaps in understanding their exposure to key air pollutants (particularly PM1, ultrafine particles and VOCs), health risks & economic consequences, and the key challenges and mitigation options for these Vulnerable Groups.

This network will be the first step towards establishing practical air pollution solutions for Vulnerable Groups tackling a major health & economic challenge that cannot be resolved within traditional, often segregated air quality communities. It will build a new truly cross-disciplinary and self-sustaining network bringing academics with a wide spectrum of expertise ranging from economics via psychology & engineering to indoor & outdoor air pollution science together with key industrial, governmental and NGO stakeholders.

The long-term vision of the network is to develop innovative & cost-effective behaviour and technology interventions to reduce the Vulnerable Groups' future air pollution exposure, improve health & directly implement these interventions through policy advice, planning, and business innovations.

The network will be composed of 8 streams (6 Work Packages (WPs) & 2 Scoping Groups (SGs)). Collectively, it will review the state-of-the-art in our understanding on (i) the VGs' air quality challenges at the indoor/outdoor interfaces, (ii) behaviour interventions to reduce pollution exposure, (iii) technology interventions at indoor/outdoor interfaces, (iv) health benefits of interventions, and (v) economic benefits of these interventions. They will also identify the future research priorities, particularly in terms of cross-disciplinary challenges, policy & business engagement. Each of the WPs will be co-led by academics and non-academic stakeholders, with support from a core group composed of Co-Is/stakeholders with relevant expertise and their institutional critical mass.

Importantly, engagement will be co-led by the government-supported Connected Places Catapult (CPC). This will catalyse and enhance the existing engagement with decision makers and business partners to align our future research with their practical priorities. The network will carry out an initial scoping study to longlist wider contributors that can contribute expertise to networks and then shortlist key members to be directly involved in the network. The network will generate abundant opportunities for within- and cross-disciplinary exchanges through network meetings, direct face-to-face meetings with stakeholders (e.g. local authorities or key industrial partners), writing retreats, social media and webinars.

The network will also illustrate potential solutions via a pilot study informed by insight gained in the engagement (WPs 1-6) as part of the interdisciplinary Cross-WP Scoping Group and the Cross-Network Scoping Group will liaise with the other five networks to link outcomes and establish opportunities for future bid development.

This work will leave a lasting legacy of a collaborative, interdisciplinary network that will drive forward research and innovation in delivering the air pollution solutions for vulnerable groups, improving their health, and reducing the cost to the NHS and the economy.

Planned Impact

Air Pollution is a growing concern for the general public (particularly Vulnerable Groups, VGs), a focus of media attention, and rising to the top of the policy agenda for authorities, private sector organisations involved in air quality activity, and companies committed to understanding, and mitigating, environmental impacts of their business, and the regulatory framework they operate within.

There is a demonstrated regional & national interest in delivery of best policy measures and interventions to ameliorate pollution and there is also a strong imperative to understand the likely future air quality picture, with and without interventions.

CleanAir4V will address the needs to deliver a self-sustained network that will ultimately lead to transformative impact, through costs avoided (fiscal, health and social care); improvements to practice and policy formulation on near-term and strategic timescales, new business and service opportunities, and most significantly through improved environmental air quality, and hence health and wellbeing of VGs.

The key network beneficiaries are VGs in UK and beyond. CleanAir4V will review the best available solutions for reducing air pollution impacts to VGs. It will build an interdisciplinary network that has the capacity to deliver world-leading research to develop air pollution solutions for VGs. It will also encourage cross-disciplinary thinking for the next generation of researchers that will deliver the best science needed for improving the health of VGs. This will contribute to improved wellbeing, reduce deaths by air pollution, and avoid associated economic costs - estimated to be £20b per year. These benefits accumulate over generations, most notably in the health space - illustrated through the "whole lifecourse".

The second beneficiary group are governmental depts - Environment Agency, and Local Authorities - who have contributed to the network design process to ensure the work addresses their needs, and are committed to network activities. Improving public health and wellbeing is a key work stream of the government and local authorities. The network directly addresses the one of the biggest challenges faced by the abovementioned depts. These depts will benefit from the review on the available interventions themselves, which provides best available solutions so far for them to consider in their policy making process. They will also benefit from the enhanced capacity to tackle future challenges they will face. As a result, the network will increase their future resilience, in terms of improved capability to respond to changing air quality challenges and future legislative requirements, such as the Environment Bill.

CleanAir4V will benefit the NHS e.g. project partner UHB. The NHS is under much strain due to the significant additional hospital admissions due to air pollution, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Reduced air pollution will lead to a decrease in hospital admissions, directly avoid the cost associated with the exposure.

CleanAir4V will benefit business, including project partners. It will directly benefit, through companies working in the air quality areas, through improvements in their understanding of the challenges and future business opportunities & contribute to new products/services. They will also benefit from future collaborations with academic institutions in tackling their own business priorities. Furthermore, all businesses are potentially affected by the poor health of their staff. By improving the health of their workforce, the network outcomes will eventually help to boost their business growth.

CleanAir4V will benefit general public & NGOs. The review of best available interventions will not only benefit VGs but also the general public. The information will provide additional scientific evidence to support charity work by NGOs. CleanAir4V directly supports NGOs (sustrans/British Lung Foundation) by delivering talks.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Engagement of a cross-disciplinary community of academics and non-university stakeholders including industry, research institutes and the public revealed the urgent need of research into air pollution solutions for vulnerable groups.
Exploitation Route Follow-on research funding bids, links to industry and public engagement will help to improve the air pollution experience of vulnerable groups.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Retail,Transport

URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/cleanair4v/cleanair4v.aspx
 
Description Engagement of a cross-disciplinary community of non-university stakeholders including industry, research institutes and the public revealed the urgent need of research into air pollution solutions for vulnerable groups. There are current discussions with industrial partners to develop intervention options.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Environment
 
Description CleanAir4V Launch Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 63 attended a zoom launch event from across industry and academia, taking place over 1-hour 30min. The backgrounds of those who attended covered the full range of disciplines within CleanAir4V ensuring the interdisciplinary nature of the network was present from the outset. Christian Pfrang gave introduction to the network, followed by talks by network members/partners: Ben Pearce from Guys and St Thomas' Charity on Health Effects of Air Pollution and Ron Oren from Connected Places Catapult (CPC) on CPC and their involvement with CleanAir4V. These talks gave rise to questions and discussions on what topics will be included and should be included in the network and the approach will be taken to addressing/researching these areas.
The meeting then split to breakout rooms covering the first 4 work packages of the network (WP1: Understanding AQ Challenges (PM1, ultrafine PM & VOCs) for VGs at key IOIs lead by Professor Neil Harris; WP2: Behaviour Interventions lead by Dr Lukasz Walasek; WP3: Technological Interventions: innovative across-scale measures for better air quality lead by Dr Zhiwen Luo; WP4: Air Quality & Health Benefits of Interventions lead by Professor Alice Turner). Participants were places into breakout rooms according to their expertise and industry area to discuss the questions "Which are the priority research questions that need to be addressed now?" and "What are the emerging challenges/risks/new for stakeholders over the next decade?". There was lively discussion in each breakout room with a range of answers given for these questions allowing Co-I's to consider new perspectives from both industry and academia to these questions. This has provided initial direction for each work package with stakeholder perspective along with the answers given suggesting where work should be done which can be used in future events to have positive impact.
The event triggered emails after providing further suggestion on the direction the network should take, as well as industry practitioners asking for opportunities to collaborate with the network-particularly those specialising in air quality sensor technology. The event also noticeably boosted network membership and engagement on social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://beardatashare.bham.ac.uk/dl/fiDz5EMeEJKReDBoEADhJqmS/Launch%20Event.zip
 
Description CleanAir4V Twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Twitter account for the CleanAir4V network was launched in December 2020. The twitter following continues to expand with 86 followers at present and a social authority raking of 13. Those who follow the account range from journalists to those in academia to charitable/social action groups on air quality and a range of industry disciplines reflecting CleanAir4V's interdisciplinary nature. The account has proved useful for sharing network events, network related events by partners, our other resources (webpages). The accounts has particularly fostered relationships with other networks funded under the Clean Air Program with regular mentions and retweets amongst networks. The account has also proved useful for engaging with those not already involved as a platform to share our most up to date activities and building network members who can contribute to work packages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://twitter.com/CleanAir4V
 
Description CleanAir4V Webpage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Network administrator Mr Jack Bishop has put together a series of webpages hosted within The University of Birmingham website. The webpages provide information on network themes, our plans, structure, events, news, contact information and the ability to join the network. The intention of this webpage is to make information about the network publicly available to anyone with an interest, primarily potential stakeholders. The webpages launched in early February 2021 and so far have generated 97 unique page views, and 6 have joined the network using the webpages as a platform. This will also prove a useful resource later in the network for publicising events/workshops, findings, any resources generated and continued network building as is already occurring and will be beneficial for engagement with work package led workshops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/cleanair4v/cleanair4v.aspx
 
Description Introduction of CleanAir4V network at Institute for Global Innovation (IGI)'s Clean Air Theme event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Introduction of CleanAir4V network at Institute for Global Innovation (IGI)'s Clean Air Theme event in July 2020. This led to a number of colleagues and researchers to get in touch expressing interest about the network and engaging subsequently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited Talk at Public Health England's Air Quality and Health Stakeholder Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact More than 250 participants attended the Invited Talk introducing specifically the network on "Air Pollution Solutions for Vulnerable Groups (CleanAir4V)" at Public Health England (PHE)'s Air Quality and Health Stakeholder Meeting followed by an interactive discussion on 15th October 2020. This even led to several follow-up contacts and discussions including engagement of a charity that we subsequently selected to present at the CleanAir4V network launch.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Joint APAC / UoB-BAM Seminar Series Talk: Indoor Air Quality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The focus of this event was on indoor air quality research attended by approximately 70 doctoral researchers and academics from BAM (The Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing is a German material research institute) and The University of Birmingham. Christian Pfrang gave one of two talks given at the seminar. A section of Christian Pfrangs' talk focused on the CleanAir4V network-the work packages/topics involved, the partners involved and the overall goals/objectives. This prompted questions from those in attendance, particularly on the issues and solutions for vulnerable groups at public transport hotspots. Observable interest in the network was generated with a number of researchers from BAM stating they would be very keen to follow the networks activates and be involved where possible. Discussion was also promoted on the potential of research collaboration both with BAM and within the University of Birmingham in future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description News Article by Fast Company in Jan 2021 entitled "A hidden source of emissions while we've been stuck inside: your home cooking" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News article published by Fast Company following an interview by Kristin Toussaint related to our recent paper (Milsom et al., Faraday Discuss, 2021) on extended atmospheric residence times of cooking emissions considering the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on periods spent indoors and on vulnerable groups specifically. This led to engagement with several international colleagues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.fastcompany.com/90589048/a-hidden-source-of-emissions-while-weve-been-stuck-inside-your-...
 
Description News Release by University of Birmingham entitled "New research network to reduce exposure to air pollution amongst the most vulnerable" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact News Release by University of Birmingham entitled "New research network to reduce exposure to air pollution amongst the most vulnerable" introducing the new NERC network "Air Pollution Solutions for Vulnerable Groups (CleanAir4V)". This led to engagement with a number of colleagues and stakeholders at and beyond Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/colleges/les/news/2020/New-research-network-to-reduce-exposu...
 
Description News Release by the University of Birmingham entitled "Pollution from cooking remains in atmosphere for longer - study" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News Release by the University of Birmingham entitled "Pollution from cooking remains in atmosphere for longer - study" on our recent paper (Milsom et al., Faraday Discuss, 2021) discussing that particulate emissions from cooking stay in the atmosphere for longer than previously thought, making a prolonged contribution to poor air quality.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2020/12/pollution-from-cooking-remains-in-atmosphere-for-lo...
 
Description Telegraph news article on "Pollution from frying food survives for days, scientists warn" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News article published by the Telegraph following an interview of Dr Pfrang related to our recent paper (Milsom et al., Faraday Discuss, 2021) on extended atmospheric residence times of cooking emissions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2020/12/08/pollution-frying-food-survives-days-scientists-wa...