About Air Pollution

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is defined as a mixture of gases and particles that have been emitted into the atmosphere by man-made processes. The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, petrol or diesel is the most significant source of the key pollutants of concern to local authorities. Air pollution is of concern as it has negative impacts on human health and the natural environment.

» Find out more about the causes of air pollution and the different air pollutants on the UK AIR website

What are the effects of air pollution?

Generally if you are in a good state of health, moderate air pollution levels are unlikely to have any serious effects. However, elevated levels and/or long term exposure to air pollution can lead to more serious symptoms and conditions affecting human health. This mainly affects the respiratory and inflammatory systems, but can also lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. People with existing lung or heart disease are generally more susceptible to the effects of air pollution and are likely to see effects at lower concentrations.

» Find out more about the health effects of air pollutants on the UK AIR website

Air pollution in the UK

Air pollution in the UK has declined significantly over recent decades through measures to reduce pollution from transport, industrial and domestic sources. However, the rate of reduction is now levelling off for some key pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen. Even though air quality across the UK is generally considered good most of the time, elevated pollution concentrations still occur in many urban locations in the UK.

Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 and Part II of the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 requires local authorities in the UK to review air quality in their area and designate air quality management areas if improvements are necessary. Where an air quality management area is designated, local authorities are also required to work towards the UK Air Quality Strategy's objectives prescribed in regulations for that purpose. An air quality action plan describing the pollution reduction measures must then be put in place. These plans contribute to the achievement of air quality limit values at local level.

Find out more about air pollution

Defra's UK AIR website provides extensive information about air quality, the causes, effects and the UK policy context. You can also download data for AURN monitoring sites.

» Visit the Defra UK AIR website »

Useful air quality links

The websites below are all external websites relating to air pollution monitoring in the UK which you may find useful.

Please Note: Air Quality England is not responsible for the content of external websites.