Air pollution

What is air pollution?

An air pollutant is any substance in the air that could harm people.

There are many pollutants in the air. Some are more harmful than others. Particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone are particularly damaging types of air pollution.

Different areas of the UK have different levels of air pollution. High concentrations can be found in most UK towns and cities. This is where sources of pollution, such as road traffic, are more concentrated.

The amount of air pollution can also change depending on the weather and the season. For example, it’s harder for pollution to disperse during still, sunny weather in summer and still, foggy weather in winter. This means the pollution becomes more concentrated causing a high pollution episode. These episodes often affect towns and cities, but they can also affect areas of the countryside as wind blows pollution across the country.

Visit the government’s website to find an up-to-date pollution forecast for your area.

If you’re worried about indoor air pollution, we have more information on your home and your lungs.

Car exhaust causing air pollution

Next: Where does air pollution come from? >

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Download our air pollution information (434KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: April 2017. Due for review: April 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.