What is Air Pollution?

Air Pollution is any chemical, or other material in the air which detracts from its quality. This could be smoke (which caused the smogs of the 1950's), soot particles, odours (from agriculture or hot food takeaways), or chemicals such as sulphur dioxide (linked to acid rain) and nitrogen dioxide (linked to human health effects).

Many activities cause air pollution. Some natural events such as volcano's (such as the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull on Iceland), or dust storms from deserts cause air pollution, however there are a number of human activities which cause air pollution including industry and agriculture, transport, domestic heating and garden bonfires.

By far the largest contributor to ground based levels of air pollution is the combustion of fossil fuels.  The biggest contributor to air pollution within Cheshire East is from road transport.

The UK Air Quality Strategy gives an overview of how the Government intends to tackle air pollution at a national and local level.  It defines a way forward aimed at improving air quality, and sets out air quality objectives for eight key pollutants. 

  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
  • Particulates (PM10)
  • sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Lead
  • Benzene
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • Ozone

The air quality standards and objectives are concentrations of pollutants over a given time period, that are considered to be acceptable in the light of what is scientifically known about the effects of each pollutant on health and on the environment.

In Cheshire East, the main pollutant of concern is Nitrogen Dioxide as a result of emissions from road traffic. Whilst in the majority of areas, levels of nitrogen dioxide are below the air quality objectives, there are a number of areas where levels are of concern either because they are already exceeding the objectives, or are approaching the objectives and continue to rise.

It is therefore important that Cheshire East maintains a high quality monitoring network, and uses other strategic mechanisms to work towards achieving and maintaining improved air quality across the whole borough.

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