Girl walking down an urban street

Air pollution and the campaign for clean air

photo of Manchester from the air with haze over the city

Air pollution and the campaign for clean air – what you need to know

Clean air - we all want to know our air is healthy. But too many of us breathe dirty air every day, especially in our towns and cities. Air pollution is a hidden killer and it hits children, older people and the poorest hardest.

This is where you can find the facts about air pollution: its causes, impacts, how to avoid it and how to help stop it. You can find out who is most affected by air pollution, investigate the air quality near you and even get in touch with other people working for cleaner air.

photo of Manchester from the air with haze over the city

Air pollution facts and figures

36,000
premature deaths a year in the UK linked with air pollution
2,091
schools, nurseries, further education centres and after-school clubs are within 150 metres of a road with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide
2,600%
increase in registration of electric cars in the UK in the past four years
£20 billion
how much air pollution costs the UK economy
11 million
cars  worldwide designed to cheat air pollution tests
photo of cars, pedestrian and cyclists at night

What causes air pollution?

The biggest problem for air pollution is road traffic, and diesel is the worst of all.

Road transport is the major source of the toxic gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air we breathe. Even the most recent, Euro 6, diesel cars emit more than 5 times as much nitrogen oxides (NOx) as Euro 6 petrol cars.

Vehicles also produce tiny particles, known as particulate matter (PMs), that find their way deep into our lungs and some of them in to our bloodstream.

We must tackle air pollution at source – and this principally means getting the most polluting vehicles off the road and reducing road traffic.

That's why we need people everywhere to join us to phase out diesel fuel entirely by 2025.

photo of cars, pedestrian and cyclists at night

What are the types of air pollution?

We’re most concerned about three types of air pollutant that cause environmental and health problems:

 

illustration of particulate matter

 

Particulate matter (PMs). The most dangerous tiny particles of air pollution worsen heart and lung disease.

illustration of nitrogen dioxide structure

 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2). High levels of NO2 can cause a flare-up of asthma or symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing.

illustration of ozone structure

 

Ground level ozone (O3). Ground level ozone can irritates the eyes, nose and throat.

Male cyclist wearing helmet in street putting on anti-pollution mask .

Clean Air Everywhere: what a good air quality plan should look like

Our call for clean air everywhere outlines what must be included in the government’s air quality plans to end toxic air pollution for good:

  • A diesel scrappage scheme to help people shift to clean vehicles
  • Changes to road tax to deter diesel use
  • A comprehensive network of plug-in points for electric vehicles by 2025
  • Huge investment in public transport, walking and cycling routes
  • A new Clean Air Act for the whole country to curb all types of air pollution

Read more about our tests for the government’s air quality plans - Clean Air Everywhere - or read the latest news.

Male cyclist wearing helmet in street putting on anti-pollution mask .