- Urgent environmental health issue
- Flexible, mobile monitoring approach
- Community engagement
Ambient air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases (WHO, 2016). Around 91% of the world’s population, in both developed and developing countries, lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits (WHO, 2016). The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted specific, compound air-quality-health impacts, with analysis already demonstrating a strong correlation between pollution levels and COVID-19 transmission within London boroughs, and a strong association of the risk of COVID-19 fatality with NO2 and PM2.5 concentrations (Sasidharan et al., 2020).
Against this general background, the town and university of Loughborough are poised for a potentially significant, near-future, step-change in air-quality drivers. Waste management companies Covanta and Biffa, together with Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, have agreed a contract to build an “Energy from Waste Facility” (incinerator) between Shepshed and Loughborough, at the Newhurst Quarry site adjacent to Junction 23 of the M1. Objections to the development from Leicestershire County Council were overruled by the Secretary of State for Local Government and current projections indicate construction will commence in 2023. The aim of this studentship project is to evaluate the pre-incinerator urban health status of Loughborough as a control, against which the impact of incinerator emissions may be assessed through atmospheric dispersion modelling, thus generating a holistic assessment of any significant changes in the air quality and environmental health profile of this town. Community engagement will be achieved through dialogue with the Nanpantan Ward Residents’ and Loughborough Air Quality Protection Groups, who in turn are in dialogue with borough and county councillors. We stress that the studentship project has no agenda for or against the Newhurst incinerator, but aims simply to evaluate the nature of its impact on the wider urban health of this location.
The control urban health status of the town, including its spatial and seasonal variability, is to be established by utilising the WHO Urban Health Index (UHI) Calculation Tool (WHO, 2014). This is an established, standardised method, based on the selection, standardisation and ArcGIS mapping of key indicators (e.g. environmental, economic, sociodemographic), which has been demonstrated to capture small-area disparities in living conditions related to health (Rothenberg et al., 2014). Original data collection to provide air quality key indicators is to be conducted using a Plume Labs Flow 2 personal air quality sensor to generate repeat, high-resolution air quality maps of the town and university. Modelling of Newhurst incinerator emissions is to be achieved using the Plume Plotter implementation of the AERMOD (EPA, 2004) and READY implementation of the HYSPLIT (Rolph et al., 2017) atmospheric transport and dispersion modelling systems, but with Loughborough University campus weather data, rather than the East Midlands Airport data of the Environmental Permit application. Plume Plotter site for Newhurst incinerator: https://plumeplotter.com/newhurst/