Household indoor air pollution exposure modelling for health risk evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Project Overview
This is an interdisciplinary PhD.  We would welcome applications from candidates with experience related to air pollution and/or indoor air quality and health, we are open to applications from a range of disciplines including  

Exposure science
Environmental science
Physical sciences and engineering  

Applicants are encouraged to contact supervisors Vande Hey ( and Cai for further information.  

Household air pollution (HAP) exposure affects the health of people around the world, including millions of South Africans living in low-income communities.  The use of solid fuels (e.g., coal or wood) and/or inefficient cooking appliances is considered the main contributor to HAP. Measurement studies have been conducted in South Africa to better understand HAP concentrations, but these mainly focus on fine particulates only, are expensive, and often do not include public health risk evaluation components.  

The World Health Organization’s Household Multiple Emissions Sources (HOMES) model represents a new, well-developed tool designed to compute indoor kitchen concentrations of fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, estimate personal exposure for individuals in the home based on cooking and occupancy patterns, and calculate level of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) relative risk.  This PhD will evaluate model inputs and outputs across wide-ranging real-life settings in South Africa; this is critical for supporting context-appropriate model deployment. Quantification of relationships among emission sources, ventilation/air exchange rates and indoor concentrations will enable better characterisation of exposure and health risk and inform effective interventions and public health policies.  

The study will consist of three phases:

Area-specific input data from existing South African studies (e.g., studies which have defined emission factors for coal stoves used in South African low-income communities) will be used to test the WHO HOMES model for different sources, housing types and different geographic locations in South Africa.

An on-the-ground field-based study will be conducted in a community and at household level to collect real data from households for all input variables that feed into the HOMES model to estimate the relative risk of ALRI for individuals living in those households.

Based on the outcomes of the above, recommendations will be made to improve the HOMES model for use in South Africa, other African countries and countries where the use of solid fuel causes a significant burden of disease and mortality. These recommendations will be crafted within the context of WHO’s Clean Household Energy Solutions Toolkit.  This first deployment and adaptation of the model for South Africa opens a clear pathway to impact.

For more information please email Vande Hey (

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