Professor Sandy Cairncross OBE PhD FRSA MICE MCIWEM

Professor of Environmental Health


A public health engineer by profession, and an epidemiologist by vocation, Dr Sandy Cairncross is interested in environmental interventions for disease control and their technical and policy aspects. Most of his career has been spent in research and teaching, and about a third in developing countries implementing water, sanitation and public health programmes. With a PhD in soil mechanics from the University of Cambridge, he built water supplies in Lesotho, Southern Africa before spending a year at LSHTM in 1977. During this time he worked on several books, including a textbook on environmental health engineering in the tropics which is now in its second edition. He then spent seven years as a water and sanitation engineer for the Government of newly-independent Mozambique, before returning to LSHTM in 1984. From 1992 to 1995 he was on leave of absence with Unicef in Ouagadougou, West Africa, where with WHO he set up an interagency technical team to support national Guinea worm eradication programmes in the region.

Here, he leads a research group working on environmental health in developing countries. His group's work at LSHTM has involved studies of the health impact of environmental interventions such as water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and of operational and policy aspects of water supply, low-cost sanitation, and hygiene. He has advised WHO, Unicef, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and many other agencies on water and environmental health. He is a visiting professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Prof. Cairncross is a Fellow of the International Water Academy, and as a member of the IPCC Working Group 2 shared in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In 2011 he was awarded the Roll of Honour by the African Ministers' Council on Water, and the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. He has also been awarded the Macdonald Medal and the Chadwick Medal.




Sandy is co-organiser of a study unit on Tropical Environmental Health, as well as contributing to a number of other courses and study units on topics such as water & sanitation, PHC and Guinea worm eradication.


Sandy is Research Director of the SHARE Research Programme Consortium, whose aim is applied research on sanitation & hygiene, with partners WaterAid, Shack Dwellers International, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. 

He is also Deputy Director of the African SNOWS Consortium to build research capacity of six African universities in water, sanitation & environmental health.

For further information, see,, and

Research areas

  • Environment
  • Hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Water


  • Engineering
  • Epidemiology
  • Operational research
  • Policy analysis

Disease and Health Conditions

  • Dengue
  • Diarrhoeal diseases
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)


  • Sub-Saharan Africa (all income levels)


  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Mozambique

Other interests

  • Dracunculiasis
Back to top