Air quality and health
Why should it concern you?
Most healthy adults are unlikely to be affected by the levels of air pollution normally found in the UK - so why should it concern you?
Every year thousands of people in the UK are known to die prematurely due to the effects of air pollution. Thousands more have to be admitted to hospital. Those most at risk are the young, the elderly and those who are already suffering from existing lung and heart conditions. Even if you don't fall into any of these high risk categories, you may have relatives or friends who do. Some pollutants are known to cause cancer and their effects on people are still not fully understood.
Air pollution also causes damage to plants, animals and buildings. In a historic city like York there is concern about the impact of air pollution on buildings such as the Minster.
The costs associated with treating the effects of air pollution run into billions of pounds every year. If you are a tax payer you are contributing towards these costs.
What is being done to improve air quality?
National air quality objectives have been set for outdoor concentrations of 8 common pollutants. Where these objective concentrations are currently being exceeded local authorities must declare Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) and draw up Air Quality Action Plans to improve air quality.
In January 2002 York declared an AQMA based on exceedances of the annual average nitrogen dioxide objective and has drawn up an Action Plan for improving air quality. Nitrogen dioxide in York arises mainly from vehicle emissions so most of the measures in the AQAP are aimed at reducing emissions from transport. For this reason York's AQAP forms part of the Local Transport Plan (LTP).
How do I know when I might be at risk from poor air quality?
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Air Pollution Information Service provides daily, easy-to-understand information on air pollution, completely free of charge. The service can be accessed by TV Teletext pages, freephone and the internet.
- Teletext: pages 155 and 169
- Freephone: 0800 55 66 77
- Air Quality Archive website
The Air Pollution Information Service reports levels of the five main air pollutants that can cause immediate health effects, against a numerical index as:
- 1-3 (low)
- 4-6 (moderate)
- 7-9 (high)
- 10 (very high)
We will also shortly be using this banding system on our own air pollution levels home page to show you what air quality is like in York.