The traffic story – one day in Paris…



“The French government has halted a controversial scheme to ban half of the traffic from Paris streets after a single day, claiming that the experiment aimed at curbing harmful pollution had been successful and that the vast majority of Parisians had co-operated.” (

ImageAir pollution also has an impact on everyone living and working in London. The Greater London Authority (GLA) estimated that in 2008 there were 4,267 deaths attributable to long-term exposure to small particles.

Here in London, the Environmental Research Group at King’s College is leading a major research project to better understand the health problems caused by air pollution and noise from traffic.

The traffic project is funded by a £2million grant under the cross-Research Council Environmental Exposure and Health Initiative  (EEHI)  with funds from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) , and the Department of Health (DoH).

King’s are leading a consortium of over 20 investigators from Imperial College London, St George’s, University of London and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“This is an exciting new project which will tell us much more about how pollution affects the health of people in the city. We already know traffic pollution can have adverse effects on the health of some people living and working in London, but this project will allow us to understand better the risks to individuals as they go about their everyday lives.”

Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group.

The health impacts of two pollutants of concern in London, as described on the Greater London Authority website, are listed below.

Particulate matter (PM):

  • Particulate pollution can harm the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems – it is linked to asthma and mortality.
  • Research shows that particles with a diameter of ten microns and smaller (PM10) are likely to be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract.
  • As smaller particles can penetrate deeper, the health impacts of PM2.5 are especially significant.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2):·

  • At high concentrations, NO2 causes inflammation of the airways.
  • Long-term exposure can affect lung function and respiratory symptoms – it can also increase asthma symptoms.
  • The health impacts of NO2 are less well understood than those of PM10, as less research has been undertaken in this area.


We have just finished the 3-day meeting for the Urban Zoo project – which involved updates and conversation on all elements on the project – a trip to one of the study sites and a meeting of the steering group, who were acting as ‘critical friend’ to the project. The final day involved the team responding to that challenge and discussions around the management of the project moving forward.  It was a really helpful meeting that highlighted the innovative approaches of this project – working towards the vision of the ESEI initiative: “The establishment of truly interdisciplinary teams of researchers, conducting high quality state-of-the-art innovative research, addressing national/international research priorities that will inform and impact on policy and practice.”


The URBANZOO project seeks to explore whether urbanization really poses a risk of emerging disease and, if so, how? Without this information it is very difficult for policy makers to do anything practical to mitigate risks that urbanization poses.

The project involves experts in a wide range of relevant subjects investigating this issue in the specific context of urban livestock keeping in Nairobi, Kenya. The URBANZOO team (which now numbers 65 individuals), is investigating the association between livestock keeping and diarrhoeal disease in children, but is also tackling the broader question of how the presence of livestock affects the microbial ecology of the city: how are the microbial floras of humans, livestock, other animals (such as rodents and birds) and the wider environment related? They are doing this, using a well studied, and understood model organism – Escherichia coli. They look to determine the ‘microbial footprint’ of urban livestock and to understand whether this footprint extends to the human population. It is proposed that the emergence of novel pathogens are most likely to occur via the same routes by which humans become exposed to known microbes.

At the same time, the team is undertaking a series of social and economic studies – centred on the concept of the ‘value chain’ (which places supply chains in their socio-economic context) – which will examine the drivers of urban livestock keeping, relate these to other sources of livestock products, and explore how practices are related to supply and demand. It is intended that this will provide insight into how the risks are likely to change in the future as urban livestock keeping becomes more widespread and food security more challenging, not just in Nairobi but worldwide. Finally, the outputs will be related to policy development: legislation regarding livestock keeping in Nairobi is changing and this study will provide supporting evidence for the potential effectiveness of new regulations, balancing public health risks with the need for food security and income.


LWEC health conference

The Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Partnership is hosting a Health Conference on Tue 8 October, which is bringing together for the first time 100+ leading UK researchers, practitioners and policy professionals who are working on the rapidly developing field of environmental change and health research. Research that will help the UK address the risks and opportunities to health and wellbeing from climate change, resource depletion, wide-spread pollution and changes in biodiversity.

If you were unable to gain a place at the conference, it will be streamed live via ESKTN-TV (

Delegates will be encouraged to make comments via twitter using #lwechealth. Feel free to join in!