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York to use ‘cutting-edge approaches’ to urban pollution monitoring

Posted on 1 October 2013

The University of York is launching an innovative 3.5m Euro project which will use new technologies to improve the understanding of urban pollution and its effects on human health and the environment.

York researchers working on the four-year project – Cutting-Edge Approaches for Pollution Assessment in Cities (CAPACITIE) – will harness a wide range of technologies including mobile phones, passive sampling devices, miniaturised sensing devices, robotics and analytical techniques such as time of flight mass spectrometry to monitor different forms of pollution.

CAPACITIE has received European Union funding to examine air, water and noise pollution in cities across the globe, including York, Berlin and Seoul. The project – which is launched today – involves experts from York’s Environment Department and the Departments of Electronics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics and Sociology. CAPACITIE will also fund an additional 12 early stage researcher roles from March 2014 for three years.

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities and nearly two billion extra residents are expected in the next 20 years. Many of the fastest growing cities in the world are highly polluted, resulting in adverse effects on human health and the health of the natural environment.

The CAPACITIE project is led by Alistair Boxall, Professor in Environmental Science at York, who regularly advises national and international organisations on issues relating to chemical impacts on the environment. He said: “With increasing urbanisation across the world, there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the factors and processes affecting pollution in cities and the potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. We also need to develop improved approaches for mitigating the effects of a range of pollutants.

The techniques, technologies and skills delivered through this programme will be highly generic and transferrable to a range of environmental monitoring challenges

Professor Alistair Boxall

“While the focus of CAPACITIE is on city environments, the techniques, technologies and skills delivered through this programme will be highly generic and transferrable to a range of environmental monitoring challenges.”

The research team believes the new technologies will provide important advantages over current monitoring methods: They will quantify levels of pollution at greater frequencies and spatial resolutions than is currently possible; they will allow researchers to monitor locations that in the past have been difficult to sample; and they will allow the researchers to study human and ecological exposure to a range of chemicals that have never been monitored before.  

Professor John Local, the University of York’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “This funding provides an exciting opportunity for researchers across the University to tackle a really important project which requires a strong interdisciplinary approach.

“The CAPACITIE project will help to establish York as a world leading centre in pollution monitoring. We expect it to act as a catalyst to draw in more funding to look at pollution issues in cities and that it will also lead to the development of new teaching programmes in the area.”

A number of ‘end-users’ will participate in the project including Arup, Ecologic, Gaist Ltd, IBM, Markes International, National Physical Laboratory, Perkin Elmer, Scottish Water, Seoul Metropolitan Government, Siemens, Umweltbundesamt, the US Geological Survey and City of York Council.

The results of the project will be reported in 2017, when the University will also host a major international conference on pollution in cities.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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