Professor Sandy Cairncross


of Environmental Health


Keppel Street
United Kingdom

+44 (0) 207 927 2211

+44 (0) 207 636 7843

Professor 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 third 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.

Back at LSHTM, he led 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 has been a visiting professor at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and 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.


Department of Disease Control
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases


Sandy founded the study unit on Tropical Environmental Health, and was a founder member of the Course Committee which set up the MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases. He then chaired the Board of Examiners of that degree. Sandy also introduced student feedback on teaching to the LSHTM. He has supervised over a dozen doctoral students to completion, but is not planning to take on any further doctoral students.


Sandy was Deputy Director of the African SNOWS Consortium, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Its aim was to build research capacity of six African universities in water, sanitation & environmental health.

Sandy was also Research Director of the DFID-funded SHARE Research Programme Consortium, whose aim was to develop applied research on sanitation & hygiene, with initial partners WaterAid, Shack Dwellers International, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. 

The £ 10 million initial budget was later expanded to £16 to include additional capacity-building    objectives, particularly in Africa, with new partners: Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ); Great Lakes University, Kisumu (GLUK), Kenya; Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit (MEIRU)/Polytechnic, University of Malawi; Mwanza Intervention Trials Unit (MITU), Tanzania

Areas of research opened up by SHARE included:

-        Adaptation of low-cost technology to facilitate use by the disabled

-        Health benefits of, and appropriate ways to promote menstrual hygiene

-        Prevention of gender-based violence near public toilet blocks

-        Standards of hygiene in health facilities and maternity centres

-        Promoting hygiene in humanitarian emergencies

Sandy is currently involved in two particular areas:

Effectiveness of sanitation and hygiene in preventing transmission of trachoma

-        Promoting weaning food hygiene to prevent diarrhoea, and: respiratory infections in young children

For further information, see,,

List of countries (where Sandy has lived and worked for six months or more)

Senegal, Lesotho, Mozambique, Burkina Faso

Research Area
Operational research
Policy analysis
Disease and Health Conditions
Diarrhoeal diseases
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
Burkina Faso
Sub-Saharan Africa (all income levels)

Selected Publications

What influences individuals to invest in improved sanitation services and hygiene behaviours in a small town? A formative research study in Babati, Tanzania.
Malima G; Mshida H; Machunda R; Moyo F; Banzi J; Gautam OP; Mbeguere M; Smith K; Cairncross S; Njau KN
PLoS One
Assessing the health benefits of development interventions.
Tusting LS; Cairncross S; Ludolph R; Velayudhan R; Wilson AL; Lindsay SW
BMJ Global Health
Comparison of Face Washing and Face Wiping Methods for Trachoma Control: A Pilot Study.
Czerniewska A; Versteeg A; Shafi O; Dumessa G; Aga MA; Last A; MacLeod D; Sarah V; Dodson S; Negussu N
The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene
Detecting extra-ocular Chlamydia trachomatis in a trachoma-endemic community in Ethiopia: Identifying potential routes of transmission.
Last A; Versteeg B; Shafi Abdurahman O; Robinson A; Dumessa G; Abraham Aga M; Shumi Bejiga G; Negussu N; Greenland K; Czerniewska A
Sanitation and Hygiene Practices in Small Towns in Tanzania: The Case of Babati District, Manyara Region.
Mshida H; Malima G; Machunda R; Muzuka ANN; Banzi J; Gautam OP; Mbeguere M; Smith K; Cairncross S; Shana ES
The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene
See more Publications