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The sociology of air pollution

The health and social theory group held the first of two seminars on the sociology of air pollution.

As we have seen recently in the media (See this article in the Guardian), air pollution is very much a key concern, particularly in terms of its negative effects on UK health overall and, more particularly, on vulnerable groups within the country -- as well as the globe in general. Throughout the world, such groups include the elderly, children and those living in urban and metropolitan regions, particularly the poor. But air pollution, particularly indoor air, is not just a problem of the poor. It is a problem for everyone.

The challange, then, is to explore what can be done to reduce their vulnerability?

Most solutions focus on individuals, as in the case of providing people air quality sensors. That is, however, problematic, not just because the sensors often are of low quality, but also because, in many instances, reducing exposure requires community or (going higher) national level interventions focused on improving the socio-ecological and physical-environmental systems in which people live. Simple example: during rush hour in the mornings, bus stations and major roads are often highly polluted (both in rural and metropolitan areas). Rethinking, then, as a community, how to re-route cars and buses through these areas (during that time period) can make a major difference.

Worldwide Deaths from Air Pollution 2004


More drastic environmental-infrustructure changes are necesary, however, when it comes to the most polluted cities in the world. Here the challenges are significant, but so are the health outcomes.

So, also, is daily life...

One of the main questions our group is exploring, presently, is how do people make sense of and deal with living in a highly polluted environment -- both as individuals and as communities? And, in turn, how do these views and ways of making sense of their lives impact what they do (or do not do) about their situation? As we explore these issues, we will be posting our insights.

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