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Air Quality in Urban Environments: 28 (Issues in Environmental Science and Technology)

R.E.Hester & R.A.Harrison (eds.) Hardcover: 162 pages Royal Society of Chemistry ISBN: 1847559077

This is one of those books which is essentially a bound set of monographs or essays by a number of authors, with a little light editing. As such, each essay has the strengths and weaknesses of its individual author or authors, but it avoids the flaw of many books of this type in that is not a loose collection of papers on their respective authors’ hobby-horses which offer at best patchy coverage of an area. Whilst it is not a textbook, it does form a coherent and reasonably comprehensive whole, and the editors have put in cross-references between the different author’s papers to assist with this process. One essay might betray the traces of being written by a non-native speaker of English, and one might seem to be a little over-speculative, but these are not faults of the entire document, and are at worst moderate.

Overall the book addresses a number of topically controversial areas, and attempts with reasonable success to knit them together into a coherent narrative. In my opinion it succeeds in its aim of providing what is described in the preface as “an overview of the most important aspects of this field of science”. It covers the science of indoor and outdoor pollution, even that of the underground railway systems found in larger cities where pollutant exposure levels are at their highest. It has a particular emphasis throughout on the health effects of human exposure, and finishes with a consideration of policy responses to improving urban air quality for the protection of human health.

It incidentally also contains a wealth of data on urban air qualities around the world in less-developed as well as developed nations which I personally found useful in a situation where I had to predict rainwater quality in a country where hard data on this were hard to come by. In summary, when considered against its stated aims, its faults are minor, and its merits greatly outweigh them. It is a topical and worthwhile read for environmental scientists and policymakers, and whilst it is probably of little direct relevance to the overwhelming majority of Chemical Engineers, it is well enough written that it is worth a read for those working in closely related areas of engineering.

You’d however need to have a more than passing interest to be willing to part with the recommended retail of 54.95 for the book, especially as quite a few of the essays it contains are available free of charge on the RSC website.