Air quality - Health facts

Air quality and health

Air pollution affects everybody, but it's worse for children, older people and individuals with existing heart and lung conditions. Exposure to pollution can cause lung damage in children, impair their development and worsen existing conditions like asthma.

In busy cities like Portsmouth, Nitrogen Dioxide (caused by burning fuels in vehicle engines) and Particulate Matter (from brake and tyre wear) are the biggest offenders in causing air pollution. Nitrogen Dioxide is a gas which irritates the airways of the lungs and affects the way they work. Particulate Matter is made up of fine particles which can enter the lungs, cause inflammation and make heart and lung disease worse. Air pollution can contribute towards conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney diease, dementia and type 2 diabetes. In Portsmouth, approximately 95 people die every year from diseases attributed to air pollution (Public Health England).

How does air pollution affect my health?

Children are sometimes exposed to higher levels of air pollution, especially during the school run and in the playground so it's especially important to switch off your vehicle's engine when you are stationary around schools. This will help reduce children's risk of breathing in these dangerous gases and particles.

How can you protect yourself and your family?

  • Leave your car at home and travel actively (walk, cycle or scoot). You'll be helping to reduce air pollution and you'll be less exposed to its effects. Car drivers can be exposed to up to twice as much pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than cyclists
  • Use quieter routes and avoid busy roads, particularly when you are walking children to school
  • If you can, wait until rush hour is over and travel when there are less cars on the road
  • If you have to drive to school, protect children by switching off your car engine when you are dropping children off or picking them up, or park a short distance from school and walk the last part of your journey

Find out more

Health Matters: Air pollution

WHO - Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health

Clean Air Day - Health facts