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Environment and animals

Air pollution and health

Poor air quality is a significant public health issue. Whilst air pollution can be harmful throughout life and across all age groups, some people are more affected, perhaps because they are exposed to higher levels of air pollution in their day-to-day lives, live in polluted areas, or are more susceptible to air pollution related health issues (the young, older people, pregnant women, or those with existing respiratory and heart conditions).

Air pollution affects your body in lots of ways. It can increase the risk of developing some health problems and can make existing health problems worse.

When we breathe polluted air, it can inflame the lining of our lungs and move into our bloodstream ending up in our heart and brain.

  • air pollution can damage our lungs, trigger asthma, increase blood pressure as well as increase lung and heart related hospital admissions and deaths
  • long-term exposure to air pollution can cause heart and lung conditions such as heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leading to reduced life expectancy
  • there is emerging evidence on the link between air pollution and brain functions, such as memory and increased risk of dementia
  • air pollution has been linked to low birth weights and pre-term births; it can also contribute towards reduced intelligence and mental health issues

Pollutants in the air we breathe come from many different sources including vehicles, industry, heating systems and natural sources. The main air pollutants of concern in York are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).

Based on current medical evidence the short term, day to day, concentrations of NO2 found in York are unlikely to give rise to acute health impacts, even in the most vulnerable members of society.

There are a few locations in our Air Quality Management Area where longer term annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are above health-based objective levels and through measures in our Air Quality Action Plan we aim to reduce these concentrations as far as possible.

Some pollutants, including PM2.5, have no known safe limits. Whilst York is well within all current government health-based objectives for particulate, any further reductions in air pollution that we make will lead to health improvements for us and in our local community.

A report from the Royal College of Physicians examines the impact of exposure to air pollution across the course of a lifetime read 'Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution'.

Measures to improve air quality, such as encouraging walking and cycling also contribute towards delivering York's Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

There are simple steps we can all take to help us cut down on the pollution we cause. Read more about how you can reduce air pollution.

More information on air pollution

Current air pollution levels for York can viewed on Air Quality England. In addition, you can also view the current air quality in York.

Air pollution forecasts for York, for the next 5 days, are available at DEFRA UK-Air. Forecasts and air pollution alerts are also available via a free email bulletin subscription provided by DEFRA.

Further information on air pollution and health impacts is available from:

Also see:

Public Protection - Air Quality

Eco Depot, Hazel Court, York, YO10 3DS

Telephone: 01904 551525