Determinants of global air pollution exposure

Air pollution is harmful to health and growing literature suggests it is also harmful to productivity. This project aims to understand the determinants of exposure, that is, concentrations of people living in polluted places. We plan to assess the reduction in exposure that follows from policy interventions affecting urbanisation, power generation, transportation, agricultural burning, and manufacturing.

Our data are based on a regular grid of 5 km cells worldwide. For each grid cell we will observe population and a remotely sensed pollution measure at five year intervals starting in 2000. These data describe the spatial distribution of people, air pollution and their product, `exposure’, and how these distributions evolve over a 15-year study period.

This research seeks to improve the foundations for public health policy surrounding air pollution, looking to answer questions such as: “If we were to spend 100m dollars to improve air quality in India, Rwanda or Brazil, should we focus our attention on agricultural practices, coal fired power, or on the configuration or location of cities?”


  • Blog post

    Determinants of global air pollution exposure

    The map below is based on 14 years of remotely sensed measurements of airborne particulates. It shows unsurprising patterns in the distribution of air pollution across the globe. There are high levels of pollution in China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural burning in the Amazon is important for central South America. North America and Europe are relatively...

    16 Mar 2018 | Lorenzo Aldeco, Lint Barrage, Matthew Turner

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    How to regulate exposure to air pollution

    Airborne particulates kill millions of people each year. Analysis of global data describing particulate exposure suggests that an important component of exposure is determined by country-level policies.  Statistically, the three best predictors of mean particulate exposure in a country are: Coal consumption, organic fuel consumption/agricultural burning, and urban...

    10 Jun 2021 | Matthew Turner, Lint Barrage

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Equilibrium particulate exposure

    We assemble global spatially disaggregated panel data describing ambient particulate levels and transport, population, and economic and polluting activities. These data indicate the importance of country level determinants of pollution, of the equilibrium process that separates or brings together people and particulates, of urbanization, and of the composition of economic...

    26 Oct 2020 | Lorenzo Aldeco, Lint Barrage, Matthew Turner