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Socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in exposure to air and noise pollution in London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Cathryn Tonne, Carles Milà, Daniela Fecht, Mar Alvarez, John Gulliver, James Smith, Sean Beevers, H. Ross Anderson, Frank Kelly

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Accepted/In press16 Mar 2018
E-pub ahead of print22 Mar 2018
Published1 Jun 2018


King's Authors


Background: Transport-related air and noise pollution, exposures linked to adverse health outcomes, varies within cities potentially resulting in exposure inequalities. Relatively little is known regarding inequalities in personal exposure to air pollution or transport-related noise. Objectives: Our objectives were to quantify socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in London in 1) air pollution exposure at residence compared to personal exposure; and 2) transport-related noise at residence from different sources. Methods: We used individual-level data from the London Travel Demand Survey (n = 45,079) between 2006 and 2010. We modeled residential (CMAQ-urban) and personal (London Hybrid Exposure Model) particulate matter <2.5 μm and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), road-traffic noise at residence (TRANEX) and identified those within 50 dB noise contours of railways and Heathrow airport. We analyzed relationships between household income, area-level income deprivation and ethnicity with air and noise pollution using quantile and logistic regression. Results: We observed inverse patterns in inequalities in air pollution when estimated at residence versus personal exposure with respect to household income (categorical, 8 groups). Compared to the lowest income group (<£10,000), the highest group (>£75,000) had lower residential NO2 (−1.3 (95% CI −2.1, −0.6) μg/m3 in the 95th exposure quantile) but higher personal NO2 exposure (1.9 (95% CI 1.6, 2.3) μg/m3 in the 95th quantile), which was driven largely by transport mode and duration. Inequalities in residential exposure to NO2 with respect to area-level deprivation were larger at lower exposure quantiles (e.g. estimate for NO2 5.1 (95% CI 4.6, 5.5) at quantile 0.15 versus 1.9 (95% CI 1.1, 2.6) at quantile 0.95), reflecting low-deprivation, high residential NO2 areas in the city centre. Air pollution exposure at residence consistently overestimated personal exposure; this overestimation varied with age, household income, and area-level income deprivation. Inequalities in road traffic noise were generally small. In logistic regression models, the odds of living within a 50 dB contour of aircraft noise were highest in individuals with the highest household income, white ethnicity, and with the lowest area-level income deprivation. Odds of living within a 50 dB contour of rail noise were 19% (95% CI 3, 37) higher for black compared to white individuals. Conclusions: Socioeconomic inequalities in air pollution exposure were different for modeled residential versus personal exposure, which has important implications for environmental justice and confounding in epidemiology studies. Exposure misclassification was dependent on several factors related to health, a potential source of bias in epidemiological studies. Quantile regression revealed that socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in air pollution are often not uniform across the exposure distribution.

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