NCAS Air Pollution

Lead Research Organisation: NERC National Ctr for Atmospheric Sci

Abstract

Human exposure to air pollution is a significant global environmental burden. We carry out research into the emission of pollutants, their transport over local and global scales, the reactions that take place in the atmosphere, and their environmental fate. By improving our knowledge of air pollution, we contribute towards improving air quality and reducing its impacts on people and economic development. We carry out research into four key areas of air pollution: emissions, urban scale air pollution, supporting health effects studies and interactions and feedbacks.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Air pollution is a multi-faceted problem that impacts on people, ecosystems and food production and is predicted over the next decade to become the largest cause of global preventable death. NCAS places this environmental problem at the heart of its science strategy, working and thinking globally, whilst actively fulfilling its role in providing critical independent scientific advice to the UK government. The particular focus for NCAS is air pollution in the context of people and public health, working closely with others on the impacts of pollution on the natural environment and agricultural systems.

A major achievement has been the substantial NCAS contributions to the £11m NERC Air Pollution and Human Health (APHH) programme, including large bilateral community field experiments in Beijing and Delhi in 2016, 2017 and 2018. APHH illustrates the national role that NCAS plays in delivering air pollution science with global reach. The science highlights of this work include the identification of a novel VOC-NOx chemical environment in Beijing with major implications of future emission controls, the elucidation of a direct feedback between aerosol pollution and the worsening of air quality through stable boundary layers, and quantification of the role of biogenic emissions in summertime to urban aerosol pollution in China. NCAS has delivered on its 2013 evaluation goals for developing new technologies, publishing >40 papers on new and improved methods for chemical analysis of particles and gases and pioneering in the emerging field of low-cost sensors. NCAS has worked with industry to quantify and attribute pollution to sources, leading to multiple patent submissions and commercialisation. A particular achievement has been the methodology to quantify urban fluxes of pollution emissions, now routinely undertaken at the NCAS observatory on the BT Tower and used by DSTL.

In 2020 multiple contributions have been made on understanding air quality in the UK, the interaction between pollution and COVID-19 and the development of new targets for air quality. A large body of academic work reported on air quality issues in China and India arising from large UKRI programmes.
Exploitation Route The work is used widely by government departments, including Defra, BEIS and DfT as well as international bodies such as WMO and UNEP. The work is cited in House of Commons reports on air pollution, and in recent summaries of science by WMO and UNEP. The expectation is that research dissemination through users leads ultimately to better evidence informed policy and more effective actions to improve air quality. The work has been particularly influential in guiding new regulatory targets for air quality in the UK.
Sectors Environment

 
Description The NCAS air pollution programme contributes knowledge across a wide domain and informs policy and action to improve air quality. Results from this programme are incorporated into multiple reports by BEIS and Defra and used for UK and international air quality policy development. In recent years this includes informing plans to reduce NO2 at the roadside through the introduction of improved tailpipe exhaust controls and traffic management approaches such as low emission zones. The work produced by the NCAS programme has supported international efforts to track trends in global pollution including through the use of long-term observations, such as from our Cape Verde and Weybourne observatories and from the FAAM aircraft. NCAS has completed a range of different short term studies of air pollution processes of relevance to low and middle income countries, including major field deployments in China and India. In both these projects the outcomes of research have ben used to support local efforts to manage pollution at source, through improved source apportionment, particularly of PM2.5 and NOx. Measurements of VOcs and precursors to ozone have been used to help develop country-specific recommendations for control measures that minimise ozone formation and that reflect unique atmospheric conditions and emissions mixtures. NCAS has also completed a range of research on issues associated with indoor pollution that have been incorporated into expert advisory reports by the UK Chief Medical officer and the Royal College of Physicians. Contributions made to a range of reports to UK government on issues associated air pollution, including reports via the Air Quality Expert Group, and evidence directly to House of Commons select committees. Contributions made to the Bill Scrutiny committee of the House of Commons for the Environment Bill (2019-2021) A range of short term contributions made to the Government response to COVID-19 including a rapid evidence review of air quality COVID-19 interactions, report to SAGE on links to mortality in the UK, and collaboration with the ONS on AQ and COVID-19 mortality risk.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Advice on ozone controls in Beijing
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Improved advice on the necessary policy controls to limit ozone growth in Beijing and surrounding regions and in particular the need to increase the pace of reductions of VOCs, relative to NOx. Possible measures include limited solvent use from industrial sources near the city centre.
 
Description Does exposure to air pollution increase the risk of dying from the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Contributions to a report by ONS on the impacts of air quality on COVID-19 mortality rates in the UK
URL https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/doesexposuretoairpollutionincreasether...
 
Description Environment Bill - environmental targets
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Environment Bill - environmental targets - cited in a Government policy paper
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environment-bill-2020/august-2020-environment-bill-enviro...
 
Description Estimation of changes in air pollution emissions, concentrations and exposure during the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Leadership of Defra report on air quality changes during the COVID19 pandemic
URL https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/reports.php?report_id=1005
 
Description Evidence to Bill Scrutiny Committee House of Commons, Environment Bill
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Evidence provided to the Bill Scrutiny committee of the House of Commons during the second reading of the Environment Bill
URL https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/environment/stages.html
 
Description Evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs committee of the House of Commons
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Oral and written evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs committee of the House of Commons
URL https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/823/default/
 
Description Impacts of Net Zero pathways on future air quality in the UK
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Defra report on the links between net zero policy and air quality
URL https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/reports.php?report_id=1002
 
Description Impacts on the Defra 2019 Clean Air Strategy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Multiple NCAS staff contributions to the Defra Air Quality Expert Group and advisory committee to UK government generating reports that determine the scientific basis for policy on air pollution controls.
 
Description Review of monitoring methods for VOCs in UK ambient air
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Review and development of future methods for the improved measurement of VOCs in UK ambient air, part of regulatory monitoring undertaken by Defra.
 
Description Volatile Organic Compounds in the United Kingdom
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Review for Defra of Volatile Organic Compounds in the United Kingdom
URL https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/reports.php?report_id=1003
 
Description Actively anticipating the unintended consequences on air quality of future public policies (ANTICIPATE)
Amount £19,343 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T001739/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2022
 
Description Atmospheric Composition and Radiative forcing changes due to UN International Ship Emissions regulations (ACRUISE)
Amount £363,917 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S004467/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2023
 
Description Atmospheric Composition and Radiative forcing effects_due to UN International Ship Emissions regulations
Amount £136,219 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S004564/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 01/2023
 
Description Atmospheric reactive nitrogen cycling over the ocean
Amount £618,334 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S000518/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
 
Description Continuous chemical speciation of Asian VOC emissions for understanding the growth of surface ozone in East Asia
Amount £439,088 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S012273/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2022
 
Description Integrated Research Observation System for Clean Air (OSCA)
Amount £581,661 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T001917/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2022
 
Description STFC Air Quality Network+
Amount £487,453 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S005366/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2019 
End 06/2023
 
Title Master Chemical Mechanism 
Description Master Chemical Mechanism is an explicit model of atmospheric chemistry used as a benchmark standard globally for simulated gas phase chemistry. It underpins multiple regulatory models and activities. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Model is used world-wide as the gold-standard atmospheric mechanism against which simplified mechanisms for regional chemical transport models are then compared. 
URL http://mcm.leeds.ac.uk/MCM/
 
Description Defra Air Quality Expert Group 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NCAS and Defra undertake a long-term partnership to support the translation of air pollution science into UK policy and action by government and Local Authorities. This is facilitated by joint academic appointments and the long-term support of the Air Quality Expert Group, the independent source of advice to UK government on issues related to air pollution.
Collaborator Contribution Defra are the government department responsible for air quality in the UK and also the UK compliance with international obligations relating to treaties such as the national Emissions Ceiling Directive and the UNECE Gothenburg protocol. Defra provides financial support to NCAS for joint academic appointments and also provides secretariat services and support to AQEG, which is chaired by NCAS. In combination NCAS staff, through the air pollution programme, and Defra publish a range of scientific reports and advisory notes of air pollution that are used widely in government to inform policy and action, most recently the 2019 Clean Air Strategy.
Impact See multiple reports at: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/aqeg/publications
Start Year 2011
 
Title Designs for the calibration of OVOCs in humid matrices 
Description A design and software for an analytical device that allows the generation of low concentrations of polar OVOC compounds in ambient air has been developed. This has been licensed to an instrument manufacturer and is now offered for sale worldwide. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed Yes
Impact Licensing income of £60,000 has been received, plus an unkind donation of a new £200,000 mass spectrometry instrument
 
Title Monolithic Clustered Senor Air Pollution System / Sensor System 
Description A microfluidic device for the measurement of air pollutants based on clusters of electrochemical and optical sensors in an array, with low power and high fault tolerance characteristics. 
IP Reference P199503.GB.01 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2020
Licensed No
Impact Open source version being developed for use in low income countries.
 
Title Water Abstraction Device for atmospheric monitoring 
Description Atmospheric technology used for water removal in gas phase air pollution samples commercialised by Markes International. 
IP Reference  
Protection Protection not required
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact new products brought to market that is going to become the new US EPA standard reference method for VOC monitoring within the US air pollution network.
 
Title Development of cluster sensor technology for robust air quality measurement in low income countries 
Description A clustered sensor device for the measurement of air pollution in low income countries based around parallelised electrochemical sensors for the quantification of NO, NO2, O3, CO, CO2 and SO2. The device has low power requirements, and a high fallout tolerance through the use of redundancy in all parts of the detection system. 
Type Of Technology Detection Devices 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Being used to support measurements in the UK urban supersites and as part of a GCRF translation award. Patent application pending. 
 
Title Master Chemical Mechanism 
Description An open source model for the explicit modelling of gas phase air pollution, used I more than 40 countries and with several thousand registered users. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used and referenced in more the 2500 scientific publications and supports policy development in many different countries around the world, including US, China and Australia. 
URL http://mcm.york.ac.uk
 
Description Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus infection - All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation to an event: Air Quality Strategy to Reduce Coronavirus infection - The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Air Pollution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://appgairpollution.org/2020/05/29/air-quality-strategy-to-reduce-coronavirus-infection/
 
Description Amid devastation covid-19 provides glimpse of a future with cleaner air. The Economist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Authored article : Amid devastation covid-19 provides glimpse of a future with cleaner air. The Economist
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://eiuperspectives.economist.com/healthcare/amid-devastation-covid-19-provides-glimpse-future-c...
 
Description Coronavirus: Lockdown prompts clear fall in UK air pollution. BBC report 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Coronavirus: Lockdown prompts clear fall in UK air pollution. BBC report
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52113695
 
Description Discussion of clean air strategy Radio 4 Inside Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview of Ally lewis for a discussion of UK government clean air strategy on Radio 4 Inside science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00021r4
 
Description Inside Science BBC Radio 4 programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview on Low emission zones, archived a podcast by Radio 4.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07vkkjh
 
Description Interview - BBC Radio 4 World at One - Low emission zones 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview - BBC Radio 4 World at One - Low emission zones
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Participation in workshop on low cost sensor approaches for LMICs 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentations and panel discussion of applications of low cost sensors for air quality monitoring at WMO-led international event on future technologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description What we do and don't know about the links between air pollution and coronavirus. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact What we do and don't know about the links between air pollution and coronavirus - article via The Conversation, and reproduced via other outlets. More than 30,000 unique readers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://airqualitynews.com/2020/05/13/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-the-links-between-air-pollution...