Caroline Lucas opens new advanced air quality monitoring station

The University of Brighton has set up a £250,000 advanced air quality monitoring station, the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to the detection of harmful nano-sized particles and their gaseous precursors.

Brighton MP, Caroline Lucas, officially opened the station on Friday (18 December) and praised the university for its “trailblazing” research.

JAQsOpening-2“One of the lessons I have learned is that although air pollution quite often is invisible it really is a massive problem. It is responsible for literally thousands of premature deaths.”

She congratulated the University of Brighton for “breaking new ground and showing real leadership”.

She said: “What will come out of this research I hope will be more pressure on policy makers to take more action to reduced air pollution.I hope the university’s research will accelerate moves to improve air quality and “tackle this scourge on people’s health”.

The university’s Air Environment Research (AER) team believes the station, on the Falmer campus, will “push the boundaries of our capabilities and enhance our understanding of the harmful air pollutants that we breathe”.

The station was funded by the Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). It comprises part of a wider “next-generation” monitoring network spread across North West Europe.

The AER team will use the station to investigate a range of modern day air pollutants, including so called “ultrafine particles”, nanometer-sized material suspended in the air that is capable of penetrating deeply into the human body where it can cause a range of negative health effects.

Dr Kevin Wyche and Dr Kirsty Smallbone, the projects’ lead scientists from the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical JAQsOpening-7Sciences, experts in atmospheric science, said: “Poor air quality is believed to result in around 50,000 deaths per year in the UK, according to Public Health England, and is thought to reduce people’s life expectancy by an average of nine months across the European Union.

“Additionally, the World Health Authority reported that outdoor air pollution kills more people worldwide than road traffic accidents, smoking and diabetes combined.

“Brighton is still exceeding air quality limits set by the government.

“In light of such dramatic statistics and estimates, it is crucial that we enhance our understanding of the relationships that exist between pollutants and health, and the Brighton Joaquin Advanced Air Quality Station (JAAQS) will provide a solid platform for us to do just this; it will provide unparalleled insight into the kinds of pollutants we breathe, their complex interactions and how they evolve.

“It will give us the unique ability to provide policy makers, scientists and the general public with the vital information required to help improve the quality of our air and protect our health.”

They said Falmer was chosen as it represents a genuine background; “If you are in the middle of the city, kerbside on a specific major road or adjacent to any other such source, measurements will be biased by that source rather than representing a more general average.”

For more information on the university’s environment research click here

National recognition for our work

WorTHE awards photos Nov 2015k being led by scientists Professor Huw Taylor and Dr James Ebdon, based in our Geography, Geology and Environment division, won national recognition at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards 2015 held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 28 November.

The project was ‘Highly Commended’ at the THE awards in the International Collaboration of the Year category and relates to work in Malawi, where 1,000 children under five die from water-related illnesses every month. By improving drinking water and sanitation these diseases can be reduced by nearly 90%.

Huw and James, working in collaboration with the University of Malawi, were commissioned by UNICEF to investigate options for the provision of safe water in rural Malawi. According to the team ‘this project provided the scientific evidence that was urgently needed to demonstrate the risk of waterborne disease to rural Malawian communities and to support immediate improvements that have provided safer drinking water for thousands of people’.

The team went from village to village, assessing the influence of water-point design, proximity to sanitary sources, and rainfall on the provision of safe water and identified the conditions that could achieve this.

MalawiThe project combined Malawian geotechnical expertise and local knowledge with UK water quality expertise to train Malawian team members and embed technical knowledge locally. The project offers a valuable blueprint for new ways to reduce excreta-related disease associated with water supply and sanitation.

The project, considered one of the most ambitious of its kind, remains the most comprehensive water quality investigation ever to have been conducted in Malawi. More than 880 samples from water sources (serving 150,000 people) were studied for the presence of microbiological contamination. Continue reading