Health effects of exposure to air pollutants - knowledge transfer on air quality monitoring and modelling between developed and developing countries.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Abstract

This PhD project will develop integrated air pollution monitoring and modelling methods as a key part of mitigation strategies to minimise human exposure and subsequent health risks in the developed and developing world. Urban homes in Glasgow are affected to varying extent by infiltration of traffic-related air pollutants, while biomass combustion pollutants are frequently experienced in homes in Malawi. The student to be supported is currently working in a GCRF pilot project (Oct 2018 - July 2019) with miniature air pollution monitors and medical devices to interpret associations between exposure and changes in cardiovascular and respiratory function in Malawi. In the PhD project, the same monitoring technology will be used in: (a) novel multi-site evaluation of a state of the art outdoor air pollution model (developed by the lead industrial partner through our earlier NERC CASE PhD project [1]); (b) application of combined monitoring and modelling methods to estimate pollution exposures to vulnerable individuals in Glasgow (NHS Sleep & Respiratory clinic patients) and Malawi (women & children exposed to cookstove emissions).

Background: The health effects of air pollution are subject to intense scientific scrutiny, with exposure consistently associated with illness & shortening of life expectancy [2]. However the evidence base remains limited by deficiencies in methods used to estimate pollution exposures. Until now a key limitation has been a lack of portable pollution monitoring instruments suitable for: direct quantification of exposures; and for evaluation of exposure models. Through NERC & Innovate UK research, the studentship will benefit from existing practical experience in field evaluation of state of the art, portable air quality monitoring sensors [3,4]. The studentship will extend bi-directional knowledge transfer between GCRF-funded exposure monitoring in Malawi and study of effects of exposure on susceptible individuals attending NHS Sleep & Respiratory clinics in Glasgow. The exposure of vulnerable people in both countries will be examined using efficient re-application of the same methods to assess the benefits of interventions to reduce exposure to air pollutants.

The project develops collaboration with: Ricardo Energy & Environment, North Carolina State & Stirling Universities; RTI International; Queen Elizabeth University Hospital University, Glasgow; and public health colleagues in Malawi. The letters of support for this application illustrate how development of collaborative research at the interface between environmental engineering and public health will be of direct benefit to people in Scotland and Malawi. Through strategic collection of pilot data this PhD project will strengthen our work on preparation of several applications for large research council grants for research on air pollution exposure using the combination of methods described here.

Objectives:
1. To use field-calibrated miniature monitoring systems for direct pollution exposure assessment and for multiple-site evaluation of a dispersion model (PM2.5, black carbon, NO2).
2. To apply integrated monitoring and modelling developed in objective 1 to determine the health benefits of reducing pollution exposure in case studies in Scotland and Malawi.

References:
[1] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2018.05.014
[2] http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104509
[3] http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.04.008
[4] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.snb.2018.07.087

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513349/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2278530 Studentship EP/R513349/1 01/10/2019 30/06/2023 Caitlin Hope