How is air pollution killing us?

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1. Please give a summary of your research.

According to the World Health Organisation, 92% of the global population are breathing dangerously polluted air. Currently air pollution is responsible for 1 out of 9 human deaths and disproportionately effects people in less economically developed countries.


Dangerous constituents of polluted air include elevated levels of harmful gasses and high concentrations of particulate matter. The origins of both are overwhelmingly anthropogenic, originating from fossil fuel combustion. As such, air pollution and climate change are inextricably linked and together represent the greatest existential threat to both the planet and its inhabitants.


Public health data demonstrates that human populations living in areas of high air pollution experience higher rates of severe chronic diseases such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and reproductive disorders.


Such public health data is invaluable to our understanding of whether air pollution is positively correlated to human diseases, but falls short of informing us how it causes both morbidity and mortality. To understand how, we require variable-controlled laboratory experiments.


Our team has developed a sophisticated combination of gold-standard physiological recording techniques, technology and equipment., allowing us to simultaneously measure the acute and chronic effects of air pollution upon the respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive and metabolic systems in unstressed freely moving mice.


We will use this system to determine the physiological effects of current and predicted air pollution levels, the effects of individual airborne pollutants, and the effects of air pollution obtained from multiple global cities.


As well as using current measured levels of air pollutant concentrations we will also examine predicted levels, and determine how health will be affected in many years to come.


These results, when combined with public health data, will provide a high-resolution representation of air pollutions physiological effects and serve as a more solid foundation for future therapies and public policies.



 

2. Please include any additional details you would like to share

The effect of air pollution on human health is of interest to all, not just the scientific community. Therefore, in parallel with this research project we will make a documentary web series that will follow the project from start to finish. These short films will make science, scientists and the scientific method less opaque to a youthful online audience.


A part of this research project that we believe will function well as the basis for a documentary film series is the investigation of the effects of "real city air' on physiological parameters. The series will follow our team as we collect air from cities around the world. Whilst in each city we will interview public health professionals and politicians to communicate the pollution-related disease burden in each city. This data will be juxtaposed with results from our laboratory studies. In doing so we will create a series of entertaining and informative short films that will function as an unusually effective method of science communication that will inform the individual, drive public opinion and fuel policy change.

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