The government sets health-based air quality 'objectives' relating to common pollutants found in cities, these are levels we must aim to meet. The Environment Act 1995 requires us to monitor air quality in our area and declare Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) where the objectives are unlikely to be met.
We use Air Quality Action Plans to improve levels in AQMAs.
Air quality in York
Air pollution and health
Poor air quality is a significant public health issue and especially for the young, the elderly and people with existing respiratory and heart conditions.
Air pollution has been linked to:
- heart attacks
- asthma attacks
- increased symptoms of emphysema
- impaired lung development
- lung cancer
- pre-term births and low birth weights
- reduced intelligence in children
Pollutants in the air we breathe come from many different sources including vehicles, industry, heating systems and natural sources.
Some pollutants, such as those caused by diesel fumes, have no known safe limits. So our approach to improving air quality is to reduce emissions as far as possible, at all times.
Nationally, it's estimated that removing all man-made 'fine particulate air pollution' would have a bigger impact on life expectancy in England and Wales, than eliminating passive smoking or road traffic accidents, and would save the NHS billions. We are striving to improve public health issues that relate directly to the amount of exposure to 'fine particulate matter' the public is exposed to. Defra together with Public Health England have published a toolkit which provides details on how local authorities can use the Public Health Outcomes Indicator to specify appropriate mitigation measures to reduce the impact of both short term and long term exposure of air pollution – see ‘Air Quality: a briefing for directors of public health’ on the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) website.
A report from the Royal College of Physicians examines the impact of exposure to air pollution across the course of a lifetime - see 'Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution' on their website.
Measures to improve air quality, such as encouraging walking and cycling also contribute towards delivering York's Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
More information on air pollution
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) provides a free service which reports levels of 5 main air pollutants that can cause immediate health effects.
Get details from:
- Freephone: 0800 55 66 77
- Online: Air Quality Archive website
Further details are available from: