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Emissions vs exposure: Increasing injustice from road traffic-related air pollution in the United Kingdom

Barnes, J.H; Chatterton, Tim J.; Longhurst, J.W.S.


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Dr Jo Barnes
Associate Professor of Clean Air

Tim J. Chatterton


© 2019 The Authors This paper presents unique spatial analyses identifying substantial discrepancies in traffic-related emissions generation and exposure by socioeconomic and demographic groups. It demonstrates a compelling environmental and social injustice narrative with strong policy implications for the UK and beyond. In the first instance, this research presents a decadal update for England and Wales to Mitchell and Dorling's 2003 analysis of environmental justice in the UK. Using 2011 UK Government pollution and emissions data with 2011 UK Census socioeconomic and demographic data based on small area census geographies, this paper demonstrates a stronger relationship between age, poverty, road NOx emissions and exposure to NO2 concentrations. Areas with the highest proportions of under-fives and young adults, and poorer households, have the highest concentrations of traffic-related pollution. In addition, exclusive access to UK annual vehicle safety inspection records (‘MOT’ tests) allowed annual private vehicle NOx emissions to be spatially attributed to registered keepers. Areal analysis against Census-based socioeconomic characteristics identified that households in the poorest areas emit the least NOx and PM, whilst the least poor areas emitted the highest, per km, vehicle emissions per household through having higher vehicle ownership, owning more diesel vehicles and driving further. In conclusion, the analysis indicates that, despite more than a decade of air quality policy, environmental injustice of air pollution exposure has worsened. New evidence regarding the responsibility for generation of road traffic emissions provides a clear focus for policy development and targeted implementation.


Barnes, J., Chatterton, T. J., & Longhurst, J. (2019). Emissions vs exposure: Increasing injustice from road traffic-related air pollution in the United Kingdom. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 73, 56-66.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 27, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 17, 2019
Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
Print ISSN 1361-9209
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Pages 56-66
Keywords environmental justice, air pollution, emissions, traffic, exposure, poverty, social inequality
Public URL
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