Imperial College project will monitor air quality in 100 West London homes

A new research project by Imperial College London will see air quality monitors placed in over 100 homes across West London to assess changes in air quality, both inside and outside the home.

The WellHome study will be created with, and for, the urban population based in West London, a community with a relatively low socio-economic status and high ambient air pollution concentrations, where more than 50% of the population are from communities of colour.

Air quality will be monitored in two, four-week periods: one during warm weather, one when it is cold. This will help the researchers understand how changing seasons affects our indoor air.

The researchers will also use passive samplers to capture chemicals, biological particles like pollen and mould, and microplastics as they slowly settle out of the air.

Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group (ERG), said: ‘Overwhelming evidence exists that shows exposure to outdoor air pollution is associated with a range of health impacts, including asthma exacerbation, bronchitis, heart attacks, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections, with the burden of these health effects falling heavily on underserved and marginalised communities.

‘Although less studied to date, indoor air pollution is gaining attention as a potential source of health effects, particularly given that we spend 80-90 per cent of our lives indoors. To better understand the sources of indoor pollutants and their potential health effects, the Environmental Research Group is undertaking the WellHome study.’

The researchers will be paying particular attention to the presence of  NO2, PMs, VOCs, CO2, CO, microplastics, and bioaerosols such as pollen and mould.

A key area to study will be the connection between indoor air quality and conditions outside, as early data suggests that trends in outdoor air quality can affect air quality indoors.

Dr Diana Varaden, Lecturer in Environmental Social Science and Health in the ERG, said: ‘Our WellHome families play an important and active role in the development of our research. They not only support our data gathering efforts, but they also play an active role in shaping the design of the research methods, ensuring that it aligns with their needs and experiences.

‘In due course, we will together co-design our results dissemination strategy, ensuring that the results are meaningful and accessible to all stakeholders.’

Esther Lie, Community Engagement Coordinator for WellHome, said: ‘I’m lucky to be working on the WellHome study, especially with our knowledgeable Community Ambassadors, partners and, of course, local families. The WellHome study puts principles of environmental justice into practice, paving the way for research like this to be the norm.

‘Although we are affected in different ways, air connects us all. This project uniquely supports and strengthens the community, improves the health of local people, and tackles the climate and ecological crisis in an accessible and tangible way. I’m excited to see the positive impacts we can collectively make in West London, working with those most affected and traditionally excluded.’

WellHome is also particularly interested in the health of children, who are more vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality – especially if they have asthma or allergies. The researchers aim to use the study’s findings to better understand how indoor air quality affects children with respiratory illnesses and what measures can be taken to mitigate this effect.

Results are expected to be published at the end of next year.


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