A Breath of Fresher Air
Thu, 24/02/2011 - 15:05 Javier Delgado
A breath of fresher air: giving policy-makers evidence on air pollution.
Cleaner air means better health – and a new Living With Environmental Change-accredited project will help policy-makers tackle air pollution even more effectively in future. Part of the Environmental Exposure and Health Initiative it aims to generate fresh insights into how airborne pollutants combine with each other and with temperature to cause or intensify health problems. This solid foundation of evidence should inform policies that could limit air pollution.
“We know that mortality rates increase during heatwaves and with air pollution”, says Dr Paul Wilkinson, who is leading the research. “In this project, we’re looking at a range of data – on atmospheric concentrations of particles, ozone and other pollutants, on day and night-time temperatures, and on cardiac and respiratory-related mortality as well as hospital admissions – to pinpoint the most dangerous combinations of pollutants and temperature.”
The team hopes to shed new light on sources of pollutant emissions that might be targeted by control policies, particularly in the context of expected trends in emissions and the likely impacts of climate change (e.g. higher average day and night-time temperatures in summer). They will examine, too, how patterns of air pollution vary between rural and urban areas, and how health risks differ for affluent and less affluent social groups.
In addition, Government officials will help the team understand the kind of real-world policy choices that are faced on a daily basis. “We hope the results we produce will equip officials to develop policies that turn up the heat on air pollution,” says Dr Wilkinson.