Apex: An Air pollution exposure model to integrate protection of vulnerable groups into the UK Clean Air Programme
Poor air quality is a public health crisis, with approximately 40,000 deaths per year attributable to outdoor air pollution and costing the UK £20 billion per year in illness, deaths, health service and business costs (RCP, 2016). Poor indoor air quality further adds to this risk and is often overlooked despite the majority of the UK population spending more than 90% of its time indoors.
The risk to health of poor air quality and its impacts being disproportionally suffered by vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly and those with underlying health problems. This risk is heightened by the impact of poor-quality buildings and other unavoidable socio-economic vulnerabilities.
Despite this crisis and acknowledgement of the risks for individuals, current methods for assessing the impact of clean air policies are entirely based on outdoor air quality, without considering human behaviours or susceptibility.
This study will place people at the centre of the problem by creating an exposure model that more accurately reflects the air that people breathe as they interact with the city, incorporating the indoor and outdoor environment, transport and behaviour patterns. Bringing together experts from a range of disciplines, this study will create a tool that will inform the implementation of the UK Government's Clean Air Strategy.
This tool, called APEx, will be used to instigate new solutions to protect the health of vulnerable groups, allow the refinement of existing solutions to increase impact and reduce unintended consequences.
It will achieve this by merging three existing advanced urban models of air pollution, buildings and urban form and a human behaviour (agent-based) model that will, in combination, be capable of estimating how much air pollution people are exposed to as they move around a city. APEx will be evaluated using an extensive database of world leading and unique personal exposure measurements gathered from several research campaigns carried out in recent years. Choice surveys will be carried out to ensure that human behaviour is correctly reflected in the model, including how citizens might react to the introduction of proposed clean air policies. The tool will first be developed for London, where the most input data are available, then expanded to cover the city of Birmingham.
A protocol will be developed describing how further cities could be incorporated in the future to assist in protective person-centred air quality management across the UK. As cities design, implement and evaluate air pollution policies and controls, they need tools and guides that take into account how people experience air pollution and make choices that affect their exposure. Once complete, APEx will be used to quantify the impact of current Clean Air Zone policies on the levels of air pollution citizens breathe. These results will be used to formulate new or augmented policy scenarios incorporating human choice and behaviour to reduce atmospheric emissions and protect targeted vulnerable groups. Throughout the study, we will engage with public representatives and stakeholders through workshops and online user groups. This co-production of knowledge will maximise the relevance of outputs, including model design, policy formulation and public health advice. RCP (2016). 'Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution'. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution
PI: Dr Ben Barratt