Air pollution has significantly reduced over the past 50 years, however, current levels continue to have a significant effect on our health. Many of the pollutants are invisible to the eye but act as respiratory irritants, both long and short-term exposure is known to adversely affect health through exacerbation of asthma, effects on lung function and increases in respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions.
Most air pollution is caused by traffic on the roads near to where we live, work and play. But there are lots of simple things we can do to improve air quality and look after our own and other people’s health.
Protecting yourself from air pollution
- Avoid sitting in a car full of pollution. Car drivers are often exposed to more pollution than cyclists or pedestrians.
- If you’re walking or cycling, you can avoid the worst pollution by travelling along quieter streets. Walking on the side of the pavement furthest from the road can even help.
- Close windows at rush hour if you live or work on a busy street.
- Be aware of days when air quality is expected to be poor. Air pollution forecasts and alerts are available for the whole of the UK from the Defra website, together with health advice for moderate, high or very high pollution.
While most people will not be affected by short-term peaks in ambient air pollution, some people, such as those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.
On occasions where levels are high those at risk should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if experiencing symptoms and have medication to hand if you have asthma.More tips on what to do and online resources are available from National Clean Air Day (external site)
Reduce emissions to air
Any reduction in levels of pollution will lead to improvements in public health.
- Leave your car at home and walk or cycle or take public transport.
- Turn off your car engine when in stationary traffic, if safe to do so, or when parked.
- When changing your vehicle look for the least polluting model.
More information on air quality monitoring, emission sources and associated health impacts is available from Lancashire Insight