Atmospheric Pollution & Human Health in a Developing Megacity

View of chinese building though a haze of pollution

This programme has two separate streams of activity looking at urban air pollution and its impact on Health in Chinese and Indian Megacities. The programme is a collaboration between NERC, the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) in China, and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in India.

NERC partners with India for cleaner air and improved water quality

9 Nov 2016

NERC has joined forces with the Indian government and the country's scientists to tackle air pollution in Delhi and help secure improved water quality nationwide.


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Huge progress has been made in improving air quality in the developed western world and the sulphur-based smogs of the 19th and 20th centuries no longer afflict our cities. In the less developed world however, the rush to industrialisation and the huge growth in motor-traffic have not been subject to the same controls that are now applied in western countries. Growth in urban populations is particularly rapid in countries at low latitudes which can also experience factors such as high temperatures and solar radiation, co-located biogenic emissions, and wind-blown dust and soil.

Consequently, regionally specific studies are needed in order to:

  1. understand the sources and atmospheric transformations of air pollutants,
  2. to provide predictive capability for the impact of similarly region-specific mitigation measures and
  3. create sustainable monitoring and compliance technologies.

While it is assumed that the exposure-response functions for air pollutants determined through epidemiological studies in the developed world are applicable to the less developed world, there have been rather few studies to cast light on this question. It is likely that important differences exist, especially for particulate matter, as the sources and chemical composition are likely to be very different to the mix which prevails in western cities. Considerable added value could be achieved in this study if the air pollution measures were accompanied by health outcomes in a nested study. Susceptible individuals could be monitored in relation to extensive local and personal pollutant exposures, such as particulates, oxides of nitrogen, ozone and sulphur dioxide. The subjects would be monitored daily for symptoms and health outcome measures.

It is therefore proposed to conduct a large collaborative study of air quality and health in megacities in China and India. Specific objectives of such a campaign could include the following:

  • Detailed estimates of the quantitative attribution of the various toxic air pollutants to the sources responsible for them.
  • An enhanced understanding of the atmospheric circulation and the atmospheric chemical processes responsible for the transformation of air pollutants and the formation in the atmosphere of secondary pollutants including ground-level ozone and secondary organic aerosol.
  • Application of numerical models of air quality to estimate the air quality and health benefits of a range of mitigation measures.
  • Scale up of low cost long-term monitoring technologies for studying spatial and temporal trends and compliance in air quality, for validation and improvement in modelling predictions and as a legacy capability beyond the fixed research programme.
  • Increased understanding of the health effects in susceptible individuals over time periods when there are large fluctuations in pollutants compared with normal controls, to identify health outcomes of air pollution.

Timing

2014 - 2020

Can I apply for a grant?

No, not at this time. All proposals have been funded.

Budget

£5·5 million in China, with £3 million from the Newton Fund (£2 million for NERC and £1 million for MRC).

£5·5 million in India, with £3 million from the Newton Fund (NERC and MRC).

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser – Grants on the Web

View live details of funded applications - external link