Health effects of air pollution

Air pollution is known to affect peoples health.  Legislation introduced since the first Clean Air Acts has gone a long way towards improving the quality of the air we breathe.  Historically, the large scale industrial burning of fossil fuels in our cities was the main concern.  In more modern times however, the main threat to air quality comes from road traffic.

The Government introduced a series of Air Quality Objectives for seven key pollutants.  For most pollutants (including Nitrogen Dioxide) there is not believed to be a risk to health providing that concentrations remain below the objective levels.  Lately it has been recognised that some pollutants (particulates for example) have no safe threshold, and health effects have been observed at even very low concentrations.

Air pollution levels in Cheshire East are not likely to cause health problems for the majority of people. During times of high air pollution however, it is possible that some people may experience symptoms such as eye irritation or coughing.  Some people who are more sensitive to air pollution may feel the effects more severely, or at lower levels.  Those likely to be more sensitive include those who suffer from heart and lung disease including asthma and bronchitis, especially young children and the elderly.

The UK Government has produced an air quality index to describe the health impact of the different levels of pollution, especially on sensitive individuals.  The bands have been set using the latest research on the medical effects of air pollution on health and are intended to simplify air quality information.

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