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Air Quality and Social Deprivation in the UK: an environmental inequalities analysis


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Title: Air Quality and Social Deprivation in the UK: an environmental inequalities analysis

Air Quality and Social Deprivation in the UK an
environmental inequalities analysis
  • Steve Pye

Background to study
  • Increasing recognition of environmental
    inequalities, and the need to address these
  • Need to address environmental problems as part of
    neighbourhood renewal / reducing deprivation -
    reflected in UK Sustainable Development Strategy
    and Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy
  • Defra interested in the distribution of both air
    quality and deprived communities, and the impact
    of current and planned policy
  • Work commissioned as part of wider project to
    provide statistics to ONS Neighbourhood
    statistics. Funding originally from DCLG
  • This study follows on from two pilot studies
    undertaken by AEA for Defra, building on recent
    analyses e.g. Walker et al for EA

Study objectives
  • 2 key objectives
  • To better understand the air quality experienced
    by people living in types of communities as
    characterised by differing levels of deprivation,
    and assess whether (and degree to which)
    inequalities exist  
  • To assess how far current policy is reducing
    inequalities, and what recommendations can be
    made to further promote environmental equality
  • .... adding to the evidence base and raising the
    profile of such important issues across
    Government departments

Types of analysis
  • To meet above objectives, study covered a range
    of different analyses
  • A comparison of levels of deprivation and air
    quality concentrations (current and projected)
    across the UK
  • Assessment of changes in trends at different
    spatial resolutions
  • Assessment of the potential pollution
    contribution from large point sources on
  • Examination of whether pollution levels and
    associated impacts suffered by the most deprived
    communities may be compounded by increased

Comparison of levels of deprivation and air
quality concentrations
  • Comparison of ambient air quality and deprivation
    across the whole of the UK
  • Analysis resolution (lower level) super output
    areas (datazones in Scotland)
  • Data sources Defra pollution mapping 1x1 m
    grids and official UK / DA deprivation indices
    (based primarily on Social Disadvantage Research
    Centre (SDRC) methodology)
  • Use of different indices (corrected to remove AQ
    indicators) meant intra-country analysis
  • Pollutants considered included NO2, SO2, PM10 and
  • Average pollution values calculated
    (area-weighted basis)

Comparison for Northern Ireland PM10 2003
Country trends NO2 (2003)
Country trends PM10 (2003)
Population sample in high pollution areas by
Population sample in high pollution areas by
Northern Ireland
Future trends in England 2003 vs. 2010
Population in sample (gt40 ug/m3 NO2) - 2.17m in
2003 and 0.34 in 2010
Future trends in England 2003 vs. 2010
Population in sample (gt25 ug/m3 PM10) - 11.8 in
2003 and 1.0 in 2010
Determinants of observed trends
  • Analysis resolution recognition of the need to
    move to a higher resolution
  • Analysis scale some sensitivity to compare
    trends at the national scale with regional /
    urban analysis
  • Rural vs. urban in term of demographics and
    emission sources
  • Socio-economic characterisation influence of
    type of data, and how deprivation is defined

Urban-rural components of national trend
2003 NO2 England
Implications for health
  • We considered the following issue
  • If a community does experience higher pollution
    levels, for example of PM10, the health
    literature would suggest a higher risk of
    incidence of certain health endpoints e.g. cases
    of respiratory illness
  • Given some of the observed trends, the health
    implications for more deprived communities may be
    significantly worse relative to other communities
  • A key question is whether inequalities are
    compounded by deprived communities also being
    more susceptible to the impacts of air pollution

Susceptibility to air pollution impacts
  • Population susceptibility may be determined by a
    range of different factors
  • Exposure determined by living / working
    conditions, daily patterns of movement etc.
  • Age
  • Status of physical / mental health background
    incidence of health endpoints underpin impact
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Many complex factors in determining
    susceptibility make quantitative analysis

Age-based analysis (1)
Age-based analysis (2)
  • The most deprived deciles are not necessarily
    more susceptible (based on age) as numbers of
    elderly people are relatively lower
  • However, what can be seen is that for a more
    susceptible age group - 0-14 yrs - inequalities
    associated with PM10 and NO2 are greater than for
    other age groups or for the population as a whole
  • Children in deciles 1-3 experience markedly
    higher pollution than those in 6-9
  • Important to highlight if younger population
    considered more susceptible to some health

Age-based analysis (3)
Summary of findings (1)
  • Inequalities in the distribution of pollutant
    concentrations (higher relative concentrations in
    the more deprived deciles) can be observed for
    England, Scotland and Northern Ireland . but not
  • The overall levels of inequality are reduced by
    high concentrations of these pollutants in the
    least deprived deciles
  • Inequalities are greater in areas where air
    quality is poorest (except for O3), as such areas
    are characterised by higher levels of deprivation
  • In future years, the numbers of people
    experiencing high air pollution is significantly
    reduced based on existing and planned policies.
    Inequalities however persist in some areas
  • Variation in values and determinants of trends

Summary of findings (2)
  • Determining susceptibility is difficult due to
    the large range of factors that might determine
    an individual response to a given dose of air
    pollution but an important issue
  • There are a higher proportion of children in the
    most deprived deciles in England, where higher
    concentrations of NO2 / PM10 tend to be observed.
    Greater inequalities than observed for the
    population as a whole for a more susceptible

  • Consideration of further targeted measures
    (based on additional research) where high
    deprivation-high pollution areas persist
  • Development of robust quantitative analysis for
    assessment of inequalities when appraising
    different policies
  • Cross-departmental co-operation needs to be
    further strengthened to effectively tackle
    environmental inequalities
  • Further research on exposure patterns for
    different communities based on behavioural
  • Further research into the distribution of other
    indicators of environmental quality

European analysis
  • Project starting in February for the European
    Commission Links between social and
    environmental policy, focusing on links between
    social inclusion and environmental policy
  • A key task of the project will be to undertake
    similar analysis across Europe, assessing the
    distribution of impacts of pollution and
    unsustainable resource use
  • Study could cover current / future air pollution,
    proximity to waste sites / industry, future
    impacts of climate change (e.g. flooding)
  • Analysis resolution and scope will be driven to a
    large extent by data availability

Details of UK study
  • Full study can be found at Air Quality Archive
  • http//
  • Contact details