Environment and Public Health
Our research in this area is intended to further scientific understanding of the relationships between environment, place and human health, taking account of population and socio-economic differences. In particular, we want to help ensure that key scientific knowledge about environment and health is available to inform the development of policy and practice in relevant sectors (i.e. transport, energy, housing, climate change and others).
Outdoor air pollution is a major public issue, partly because everybody is exposed. Long-term exposure increases risks of earlier death and contributes to chronic cardio-respiratory disease; days of higher pollution trigger or worsen many cardio-respiratory conditions, increasing hospital admissions and earlier death. There are substantial health impacts also from indoor air pollution, especially from people smoking indoors. We have internationally recognised expertise in Health Impact Assessment of outdoor air pollution, including use of life table methods to assess mortality impacts and have undertaken important impact assessments for London and other cities and regions.
Our work on pesticides has included important studies of the effects of these chemicals on health and the exposure of workers, residents and bystanders. Our latest investigation concerns those living close to fields that are sprayed with agrochemicals.
Consumer exposure to chemicals
Consumers may be exposed to chemicals from products used in the home, garden or elsewhere in the environment. We have been involved in measuring these exposures for companies marketing and selling products. Our latest work has investigated the possibility for skin contamination in consumers handling motor oils and diesel fuel.
Cigarette smoke and indoor air research
In collaboration with other scientists, we have been involved in evaluating the effects of the Smoke-Free legislation on second-hand smoke (SHS) levels and the health of bar workers in Scotland and England. We have also investigated the impact of the ban on exposure to SHS of non-smokers living with smokers, on the air quality in cars during smoking and other studies of SHS exposure.
We also have an interest in understanding exposures to airborne particles from indoor air pollution sources such as coal and wood-burning stoves.
IOM has been the leading partner in the Scottish Government initiative on the Environmental Determinants of Public Health in Scotland (EDPHiS). This is a multi-disciplinary collaborative research project that aims to support the development of public policy in Scotland, insofar as these polices affected child health through interactions with their environment. Key concerns we have investigated are: obesity, unintentional injury, mental health and wellbeing, and asthma.
The involvement of citizens in scientific investigations is an increasingly popular way of empowering communities to influence local environmental issues. IOM are involved in studies where citizens are measuring air pollution and other environmental stressors, and sharing this data with government and others. We are part of the international Citi-Sense project and are actively involved in developing small low-cost pollution sensors for community use.