Air Quality and Health

Air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the United Kingdom. Studies have shown that exposure to poor air quality can have both short and long-term effects on health.

Air pollutants are emitted from a range of sources including agriculture, industrial processes, domestic heating and transport; with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter being the key pollutants with regards to local air quality.

When air pollutants enter the human body, they affect various organs and body systems and can have a range of effects on health.

Air pollution is harmful to everyone, but some people are more affected, including:

  • Older people

  • Children

  • People with pre-existing conditions

  • Pregnant women

  • People who are more exposed to poor air quality, such as those who live near to main roads.

It is estimated that 4.6 million people die each year worldwide from causes directly linked to air pollution, and around 30,000 in the UK.

We have a statutory role in monitoring and improving local air quality, which will also help to improve pollution levels across the UK. There are both legal and aspirational targets for the key air pollutants which will help to reduce the likelihood of affects to health caused by poor air quality. You can find out more about what we are doing to manage local air quality.

Improving air quality is crucial to reduce the health impacts and in return, help people to live health and happy lives. That is why it is more important than ever for everyone to help improve both local and national air quality. You can find out more about how you can help reduce emissions and improve air quality.