News & Features

Air Pollution Study Named Best Paper by Top Scientific Journal

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Apr. 4, 2018

Assistant Professor Joshua Apte’s study of air pollution was named the Top Environmental Technology Paper of 2017 by the journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T). 

Apte’s study, entitled “High-Resolution Air Pollution Mapping with Google Street View Cars: Exploiting Big Data,” relates to the development of a new hyper-local approach to mapping air pollution at the sub-city block scale. This technique could address major air quality monitoring gaps and has the potential to transform the way air pollution is monitored in urban areas worldwide as well as shed light on the health effects for urban dwellers.

ES&T is a biweekly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society since 1967. To highlight notable publications each year, ES&T editors identify outstanding papers and select one from the categories of Environmental Science, Environmental Technology, Environmental Policy and Features. Apte’s paper was selected from among over 1500 papers published in ES&T in 2017. 

In partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, Google and Aclima, Apte led a research team to develop the most detailed and extensive local map of air pollution ever produced for an urban area, using specially equipped Google Street View cars to measure air quality on a block-by-block basis.

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The team's straightforward measurement technique can be scaled up to other cities around the world.

Using Aclima’s measurement system integrated into Google Street View cars, the team mapped air pollution in 78 square miles of Oakland, California, over an entire year, collecting one of the largest data sets for air pollution ever measured on single city streets. This new technique maps urban air pollution at 100,000 times greater spatial resolution than is possible with traditional government air quality monitors. 

The study included co-authors from the University of Washington, University of British Columbia, Utrecht University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Aclima and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Apte and his research team study human exposure to air pollution in the built environment. They use methods from environmental engineering, aerosol science, exposure assessment and environmental health to understand the relationships between emissions, atmospheric transformations, concentrations, human exposures and health effects.