Project Details

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Prof. Francis Pope

Project area or title

Air pollution and cognitive health


The links between air pollution on physical health are well known, with air pollution being the leading environmental health risk factor globally. Over the last five years, a growing evidence base has been generated, which highlights air pollution also affects mental and cognitive health on both short and long timescales.

The implications for a link between air pollution and cognitive health are far reaching; they suggest that elevated levels of air pollution significantly affect short term cognition and hence mental health. This implies average human cognitive ability will vary from city to city and country to country as a function of air pollution exposure.

The supervisory team of Profs Francis Pope are Roy Harrison are working with colleagues in the UK and France investigating the pathways of air pollution exposure and how they affect cognition. They are investigating how different cocktails of air pollutant create differential effects upon cognition. For example, how does indoor air pollution sources from cooking and heating differ from outdoor sources such as vehicle emissions and industrial sources.

The project will investigate the role of air pollution upon cognition through different exposure pathways and relate this to national and international advice for air pollution exposure. The project will explore whether current guidelines from the UK and WHO developed for the relationship between air pollution and physical health and sensible and appropriate for the relationships between air pollution and cognitive and mental health. This new knowledge will allow for updated guidelines to protect public cognitive health.


Common Mental Health (covering anxiety, depression)


University of Birmingham

Specific Project Eligibility