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Research by geographers at Imperial College London is addressing the complex issue of air pollution, informing international agreements and cost-effective national strategies to reduce emissions.



Air pollution is Europe’s largest public health risk, responsible for more than 500,000 deaths every year, and costing the UK alone some £20 billion annually.



This research projected pollutant emissions across Europe and potential cost-effective measures to reduce emissions and their costs, modelling national strategies to achieve compliance with targets set in the UNECE Gothenburg protocols. More recently, the researchers have shown how to integrate urban and local dimensions, such as traffic and street-scale urban form, into overall air pollution control strategies.

Work is also focused on understanding how the behaviours of individuals interact to determine personal exposures to air pollution. This takes account of individual activity patterns and is evaluating trade-offs in risks and benefits of outdoor physical activity based on data from wearable sensors.



The pioneering approach to integrated assessment modelling has supported governments in the UK and Europe in implementing new strategies for cost effective compliance.

A key contribution was the development of the UK Integrated Assessment Model (UKIAM). Extensive analysis of emissions of SO2, NOx, NH3, VOCs and PM2.5 provided the evidence to justify the UK Government’s ambitious commitment to achieving the WHO guideline of 10 ug.m-3 for PM2.5.

The research has also contributed to changes in how active mobility is perceived and promoted in policy and public discourse project and has led to the creation of WHO’s HEAT air pollution module, used internationally by local policy makers to decide on transport investments.


More information 

Institution: Imperial College London

Researchers: Professor Helen ApSimon, Dr Audrey de Nazelle

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Air pollution research leads to local, national and international policies and actions that reduce air pollution impacts. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>