Completed Projects

Rapid evaluation and modelling of changes in personal exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) and related consequences for health and behaviour during the response to the Covid-19
University of Stirling
Sean Semple, Martine Stead


Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is one of the key air pollutants that is inhaled in to the deep areas of the lung. There is significant epidemiological evidence that PM2.5 concentrations are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Exposure to air pollution is estimated to contribute to 28,000-36,000 deaths in the UK each year, and increases morbidity through exacerbation of cardio-respiratory diseases including COPD, asthma, angina and cardiac events. The lockdown period provided a ‘natural experiment’ to study behaviour change and its potential health impacts. There is evidence that the changes in lifestyle and behaviours imposed by the ‘lockdown’ modified outdoor air quality but little is known about how personal exposure to PM2.5 changed due to people spending more time at home and in indoor environments.


This project proposes to combine data on changes in outdoor PM2.5 concentrations from the existing UK Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) of monitors, with literature and database sources providing indoor PM2.5 concentrations from different types of homes to generate estimates of changes in personal exposure to PM2.5 for a range of population groups and household types. These exposure changes will then be applied to estimate changes in health risk using established exposure-response functions. One of our aims will be to estimate changes in exposure to PM2.5 from second-hand tobacco smoke during lockdown. This will provide the PH-PRU and policymakers with information on how lifestyle and behaviour changes are likely to impact on cardio-respiratory health as the UK’s response to Covid-19 developed.


* Qualitative telephone interviews to examine changes in time spent at home; and detailed information about changes in smoking at home;

* Data collection of PM2.5 data from outdoor air monitoring stations around the UK;

* Modelling changes in personal exposure using census data;

Research Team

Sean Semple

Martine Stead