Tag: Environment and health

Spotlighting Air Quality Researchers on Clean Air Day

Group photo of Aerosol Science Team at Imperial’s Environmental Research Group in front of an air quality monitoring site (Ian is fifth from the left)
Group photo of Aerosol Science Team at Imperial’s Environmental Research Group in front of an air quality monitoring site (Dr Ian Chen is fifth from the left)

Air pollution is linked to 43,000  deaths each year in the UK.  The World Health Organization and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental threat to our health. To mark Clean Air Day, we’re spotlighting Dr Ian (Gang) Chen and Dr Kayla Schulte from Imperial’s Environmental Research Group who are leading the charge in the fight against air pollution. 


Dr Ian (Gang) Chen 

As a kid growing up in China, I always thought the haze was just another humid day with fog. Only after watching the Chinese-made documentary, Under the Dome in 2015, did I realise how polluted our air was. I was shocked and determined to do something about it. To begin my research journey in air pollution, I pursued a two-year MPhil program at the University of Toronto. There, I focused on developing a low-cost sensor to detect soot particles in developing countries. After that, I became interested in identifying and quantifying sources of air pollutants for my PhD studies at ETH Zurich, since it’s the most straightforward way to target emission sources and mitigate air pollution. My research has focused on this topic ever since.  

Our team (Aerosol Science) at Imperial’s Environmental Research Group maintain two air quality supersites in London, where we use the latest technology to continuously monitor pollution. One site is located near Baker Street, central London, a traffic station, while the other is an urban background site located in Honor Oak Park in south London. On Clean Air Day 2023, we launched a particulate matter (PM) dashboard which shows the hourly chemical composition of the solid particles and liquid droplets found in our air.  Making this data open-access and interactive is crucial for public understanding of the air we breathe. The organic mass in PM often contains millions of compounds and my research focuses on identifying and quantifying its sources. In the coming years, we aim to provide near real-time source information for PM on this dashboard, so that both the public and policymakers can understand where the pollution is coming from.  

Follow Dr Ian Chen on X

Bird’s eye view of the supersite at Honor Oak Park in London
Bird’s eye view of the supersite at Honor Oak Park in London

 

Daily/Annual average chemical composition of PM2.5 in London (Honor Oak Park) from the PM dashboard
Daily/Annual average chemical composition of PM2.5 in London (Honor Oak Park) from the PM dashboard

(more…)

What is environmental inequality and why should we care?

Charlotte Roscoe highlights the problem of environmental inequality and explores how potential solutions such as urban green spaces may help to close the gap.


Whether it’s standing on picket lines with Mind the Pay Gap signs, whether it’s the rallying cry of Black Lives Matter, or surging child poverty across the UK: one thing inequality probably doesn’t mean to you, is city planning. Yet over 80% of the UK population live in urban areas, and the built environment is unequally impacting our health and wellbeing.

Not all urban neighbourhoods were built equal

Urban neighbourhoods designed in the past few decades of vehicle priority tend to be the most damaging to health. Car parks and roads have swallowed up our public spaces, and despite government strategies to reduce vehicle emissions via charging schemes, vehicles continue to dominate our streets.

Perhaps you’ve read headlines such as: “Traffic noise revealed as new urban killer”, or, “Each car in London costs NHS and society £8,000 due to air pollution”. These shocking news stories feature robust scientific evidence from the MRC Centre for Environment and Health, that both traffic noise and air pollution are linked to ill health, and even death.

Newsflash – traffic is bad for us! (more…)