Dr. Raeesa Moolla

Dr. Raeesa Moolla

Lecturer | School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies | University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Dr. Raeesa Moolla attained her Ph.D. at the age of 30, at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she is now a tenured lecturer. Her research interests lie in hotspot monitoring and modeling of urban-scale air pollution and its impacts on human health; specifically related to VOC emissions and pollution from the transport sectors.

She is also involved in surface and tropospheric ozone research and is a part of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry project (a non-profit organization). Dr. Moolla currently has over 25 publications and conference proceedings to her name, with an additional five publications being reviewed.

I am currently involved in research related to air quality and human health impacts, as well as modeling climatic variability and its influence on air pollution and health; specifically involving organic compounds, both in the Occupational and Public Health domain.


The airport industry is developing at an expeditious rate and plays a significant role in boosting a country’s economy. Although airports create employment opportunities; they are also known as pollution hotspots. Pollutants released from airports (amongst other pollutants); include a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are a highly reactive and toxic; namely the BTEX group (i.e. benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes).

Due to the high level of toxicity, an occupational health risk assessment was conducted at an international airport in South Africa to determine ambient BTEX concentrations and the potential health risks of employees. The sampling campaign was conducted during the winter season, as studies have shown a prevalence of BTEX concentrations during this season in South Africa.

The campaign adopted the use of Radiello Passive Samplers, with a sample group from ten different departments within the airport. Indoor concentrations of individual BTEX compounds (Figure 1) were above international air quality guidelines, indicating an Occupational Risk. Furthermore, high levels of BTEX concentrations were revealed in specific departments outside the main airport wing (viz. the paint shop, aircraft main apron, and waist area).

In general, the lifetime cancer risk (based on the US EPA standard of 1×10−6) was exceeded for all full-time airport employees. In addition, the hazard quotient risk was also exceeded in specific departments within the airport. Thus, the research recommends essential modifications within the airport departments be made to reduce future potential Occupational Health Risks for employees.