Air pollution and your health

We’re all at risk from the effects of air pollution. Where you live and work and whether you have an existing health condition can increase your risk.  

Air pollution is the name for extremely small particles and gases in the air which can cause harm if you breathe them in.

The main pollutants that affect health (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, particulates and sulphur dioxide) can come from several places, including people’s homes, industry, and road traffic.

Find out more about the sources of air pollution

How does air pollution affect health?

Most healthy people will not notice any immediate effects or symptoms from breathing in air pollutants. However, exposure to it in the long term can cause serious conditions to develop later on, such as heart attack or stroke.

For adults and children with a heart or lung condition, being exposed can have an almost immediate impact. Existing symptoms may become worse and may need medical attention.

Find out more about how air pollution affects health

What can I do to protect my health?

The following steps can help you stay healthy when and where air pollution levels are high.

Check the forecast

Levels of air pollution can vary depending on the weather and seasons. This is why it’s important to regularly monitor air pollution levels around where you live and work, particularly if you have a heart or circulatory problem, or long-term lung disease. Check the forecast in your area online at Defra UK Air or London Air.

You can also register for FREE airTEXT alerts. Alerts get sent directly to your telephone, mobile or computer when air quality will be poor.

Follow the advice

Air pollution on a day-to-day basis is unlikely to rise to a level that means you’ll have to make any major changes to your routine.

If you have concerns about whether it is safe for you, or someone you care for, to do certain activities (exercise outside, for example), the Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI) can help.

You should follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

Use the Daily Air Quality Index for health advice

Lower your exposure – walk and cycle more!

Research shows exposure to toxic air is often far higher inside vehicles than outside them. This means that people who walk or cycle are less exposed to toxic fumes compared with those who drive.

Not only can walking and cycling help to improve air quality by cutting the level of harmful fumes given out by vehicles into our streets, it’s a great way to stay active and improve your health.

Plan your route for lower pollution travel

However you choose to get from A to B, you can reduce your exposure by planning your route.

You can plan alternative routes using the following online planners: Walk It, Breathe London and City Air.


For more information about Air Pollution and what the Royal Borough of Greenwich are doing to tackle it, how you can help and more, visit Royal Greenwich’s website.

Helping you Live Well in Greenwich

Live Well Greenwich Line
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