Science & Technology

Air Pollution and Public Health: emerging hazards and improved understanding of risk

Professor Frank Kelly
27th November 2018, 7:00pm
RNCM

Despite past improvements in air quality, very large parts of the population in urban areas breathe air that does not meet European standards let alone the health-based World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines. Over the last 10 years, there has been a substantial increase in findings that particulate matter (PM) air pollution is not only exerting a greater impact on established health endpoints but is also associated with a broader number of disease outcomes. Data strongly suggest that effects have no threshold within the studied range of ambient concentrations, can occur at levels close to PM2.5 background concentrations, and that they follow a mostly linear concentration–response function. Having firmly established this significant public health problem, there has been an enormous effort to identify what it is in ambient PM that affects health and to understand the underlying biological basis of toxicity by identifying mechanistic pathways – information that in turn will inform policy makers how best to legislate for cleaner air. Another intervention in moving towards a healthier environment depends upon achieving the right public attitude and behaviour by the use of optimal air pollution monitoring, forecasting and reporting that exploits increasingly sophisticated information systems. Improving air quality is a considerable but not an intractable challenge. Translating the correct scientific evidence into bold, realistic and effective policies undisputedly has the potential to reduce air pollution so that it no longer poses a damaging and costly toll on public health.

 

About the Speaker

Professor Kelly holds the chair in Environmental Health at King's College London, where he is Director of the Environmental Research Group, Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit on Environmental Hazards and Deputy Director of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health. He leads a substantial research activity which spans all aspects of air pollution research from toxicology to science policy. He has led studies of the urban airshed within London including the impact of the introduction of London’s Congestion Charging Zone and Low Emission Zone. Other work examines the toxicity of PM associated with metals and quinones, diesel and biodiesel exhaust emissions, wood smoke and the identification of biomarkers of traffic exposure. Prof. Kelly has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers as well as many conference papers and books (as author or editor) on the toxicology and health effects of ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution. In addition to his academic work, Prof. Kelly is past President of the European Society for Free Radical Research and past Chairman of the British Association for Lung Research. He provides policy support to the WHO on air pollution issues and he is Chairman of COMEAP the UK’s Department of Health’s Expert Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants.

Menu for Supper

Steamed salmon with a saffron cream sauce served with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables

Brie and beetroot tartlets

Chocolate fudge cake

Fresh fruit salad

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