West London families experience science behind air pollution study


Children taking part in science experiments, using pipettes

The WellHome study team welcomed participants from the local community to Imperial’s White City Campus for a unique interactive science experience.

Families from 10 homes that have been involved in the WellHome study were welcomed to Imperial’s White City Campus to visit the world-leading Environmental Research Group to take part in hands-on interactive experiments, revealing the science behind the project.

The West London Healthy Home and Environment Study (WellHome) works in partnership with over 100 local homes (primarily from W10, W11 and W12 postcodes) to investigate indoor and outdoor air pollution and its impact on asthma. The study focuses on children with asthma or allergies and families from ethnic minority groups and lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The day gave the families the opportunity to learn about air pollution using pipettes to explore chromatography (a method for separating substances in mixtures), testing water quality, and other techniques that are used by the Environmental Research Group.

The purpose of the “Day in the life of a scientist” event was to strengthen relationships with families taking part in the WellHome study and create a welcoming space where participants can engage with real science, breaking down any potential barriers between the research team and the households.

The day finished with a creative arts activity, reflecting on their WellHome experiences, with artist Elizabeth Salazar.

Father and two children wearing lab coats and safety goggles

Mustaphe O Muse, a father in a participating family said: “The day was absolutely beneficial for the parents and the children - this will make the children interested in becoming scientists. Because of today I know what to expect of the WellHome study and will be more familiar with the equipment in our home. This will help me to be more involved in what’s happening in the home - so I can understand the importance of pollution and how it affects our home.”

Partnering with Breathe London, the WellHome study was co-designed from the outset with local residents to better understand the impact of air pollution both inside and outside of our homes. Although we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, very little research on indoor air quality has been carried out in the UK, especially of this size, scale and with the trust of the local community.

Della, a WellHome Community Ambassador, said: “The day was affirming, positive and educational. All those who participated came with unknown expectations and left really having achieved taking part in an enjoyable day but with further knowledge of what it is to be a scientist at imperial’s Environmental Research Group.”

WellHome families

Diana Varaden, Lecturer in Environmental Social Science and Health, reflected on the day: “These engaging activities provided us with a wonderful opportunity to captivate the attention of young children in interactive ways. Our aim was to explain why we are measuring air pollution in their homes and to illustrate how we are analysing the measurements we gathered. Through hands-on demonstrations, colourful visuals, and exciting experiments, we sparked their curiosity and helped them understand the importance of monitoring air quality. We made sure to show them that science was not only important but also incredibly fun!”

Venezuelan artist Elizabeth Salazar worked with poetry, textiles and natural dyes with the families to explore their experiences of being part of the study in a more creative way, beyond quantitative surveys and interviews.

Artist Elizabeth Salazar working with children

Elizabeth said: “It was very gratifying to see an institution like Imperial give access to normal, ordinary people in the community to understand more, and grasp a little bit of the inside work the College is constantly doing. It provides more democratic access to science. The impact of days like this will be long lasting and positive and I am sure the children will never see science in the same way.”

The findings from WellHome will be shared through co-designed reports, empowering participants with valuable insights. The aim is to shape effective recommendations for residents, authorities and policymakers towards clean air for all.

WellHome is paving the way for future collaborative participatory research, working meaningfully with communities. To find out more about WellHome, please visit The WellHome Study.


Jack Stewart

Jack Stewart
School of Public Health

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2664
Email: jack.stewart@imperial.ac.uk

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