The air we breathe
Air quality in urban environments
R E Hester and R M Harrison (eds)
Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing 2009 | 162pp | £54.95 (HB)
Reviewed by Paul Seakins
The volume begins with an introductory chapter introducing the issues around urban air quality and the relationships between air quality, emissions and meteorology. Three chapters then follow looking at urban meteorology, chemical processes and particulate matter. These chapters provide a good introduction to the topics, accessible to the relevant audience and with comprehensive and up to date referencing for further reading.
The final chapters of the book will be particularly useful to atmospheric chemists, as they provide an excellent link between the compositional and mechanistic studies that are such a strong feature of UK research, and health and policy impacts that provide the underpinning rationale for such research. Sotiris Vardoulakis discusses human exposure, highlighting the importance of the indoor as well as outdoor environments, Robert Maynard provides an excellent discussion of health effects (with a set of references that will be a boon to grant writers for many years to come!) and finally Martin Williams discusses the links between air quality and policy.
The absence of a specific chapter on urban emissions (indoor and outdoor) is perhaps the major weakness of this volume. Road traffic is the accepted major outdoor source of pollution in developed urban environments, but other sources are important. The introductions to several chapters mention the importance of megacities in the developing world (which are likely to have very different emissions profiles to their counterparts in the developed world), yet the chapter contents focus almost exclusively on developed cities. This may reflect the lack of research on megacities.