University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre for Atmospheric Science seminars, Chemistry Dept. > Extracting policy relevant findings from air pollution monitoring networks

Extracting policy relevant findings from air pollution monitoring networks

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Olalekan Popoola.

European, national, city and local governments are all working to decrease the UK’s air pollution health burden but which policy is working best? With the threat of European Court action, UK policy makers are becoming increasingly attuned to the effectiveness of policies to improve urban air pollution. Concentrations of NO2 are between two and three times EU Limit Values alongside some London roads, largely due to the disparity between real-world nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles and those expected from the regulatory test results. There is also surprisingly little evidence on the real-world effectiveness of diesel particle traps.

The sheer number of policies makes it hard to evaluate their individual effectiveness. Instead our study searched for the locations that have experienced the greatest changes in air pollution since 2010 with a view to determining the most effective policy packages. Trends were examined at 65 London roadside monitoring sites. Air pollution continues to deteriorate alongside some roads but most showed improvements since 2010. Clear situations were found where the retro-fitting of SCR systems to buses lead to improvements in NO2 . Although improvements in PM2 .5 concentrations were consistent with decreases in black carbon, many locations in outer London did not see improvements in PM10 and traffic emissions of CO2 did not match the downward expectation from improved fleet efficiencies.

It is also unclear which part of the urban airborne particle mixture is responsible for the health effects seen in epidemiological studies. This means that policies to reduce the PM10 or PM2 .5 concentration to meet legal limits might not be the optimum to decrease health impacts. From the air quality science perspective it would be tempting to simply measure as many candidate metrics as possible and test these in health studies but this raises methodological questions for epidemiologists. Is this the right question to ask? A recent study at King’s has proposed a novel way to address this problem by considering the pollution mixtures that we are exposed to rather than the individual pollutants themselves. In the first application of this technique respiratory deaths in London were found to be associated with mixtures that were dominated by secondary particles and this opens up new opportunities for health impact analysis.

This talk is part of the Centre for Atmospheric Science seminars, Chemistry Dept. series.

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