Is exposure to airborne fine and ultrafine particulate matter a determining factor in COVID-19 infection and outcome within the UK?

Project Details


This project will look to answer the question "Is exposure to airborne fine and ultrafine particulate matter a determining factor in COVID-19 infection and outcome within the UK?"

Fine particles (PM2.5) aren’t comprehensively monitored or well-legislated for, and ultrafine particles (UFP) neither routinely monitored nor legislated for at all. As such, datasets for these important parameters are scarce/non-existent, which means there exists a major gap in health-relevant information for a range of health-based studies that, as described in the Hidden Rise in Toxic Air Pollution (HRITAP) project (NE/V009400/1), could be relevant to COVID-19 (and other respiratory viral) infections/outcomes.

Through the HRITAP project (NE/V009400/1) we hold a unique dataset of ambient levels of PM2.5 and UFP and constituents (e.g. non-volatile fraction, black carbon) at seven locations in England (London(x2), Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Brighton, Chilbolton rural background), which collectively are representative of the UK during COVID-19 wave-1. We aim to extend the timeframe of this dataset’s collection to cover additional COVID-19 wave(s), analyse interdependencies in particle constituent exposures, and merge these air pollution data with NCS health datasets to enable future nuanced analyses of short-term air pollution influence on respiratory disease and COVID-19 morbidity/mortality. Improving the datasets in this way will protect public health going forward. We’ll work with end-users (e.g. epidemiologists; COMEAP) to ensure our new datasets are usable/fit-for-purpose, and make all data-assets/analyses produced available to stakeholders and lodge them in applicable open-access repositories, including NERC CEDA/HDR Innovation Gateway.

Evidence at individual-level and on role of short-term exposures is limited. Previous studies found associations between air pollutants and respiratory hospital admissions/mortality. Health impacts of ultrafine particles, small enough to cross into the bloodstream, have recently been recognised (, with evidence for short-term increases in inflammation and cardiovascular changes. This may exacerbate SARS-CoV-2 infectivity and potentiate known cardiovascular impacts of COVID-19.This work will create a GIS model and new optimal datasets for investigations into short-term air pollution exposure impacts on COVID-19; inform future air quality policy and potentially provide information relevant for pollution alerts to the public.

Layman's description

Short titlePM Exposure and COVID-19 Outcome
Effective start/end date1/01/2130/06/21



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