Air pollution can move from your lungs into your bloodstream and reach many organs. The connection between air pollution and our health has been studied for decades.

Air pollution can affect us all - from asthma and stroke, diabetes and dementia, pregnancy loss and cancer - it increases the risk of a range of  health problems and makes some existing conditions worse. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.

"All of the organs in the body seem to be affected in some way by breathing in air pollution."

Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London

How does air pollution affect my brain?

Research is beginning to point towards effects of air pollution on the developing brain, but more research is needed. 

Air pollution potentially increases the risk of getting dementia. 

How does air pollution affect my heart?

Air pollution increases risk of death from cardiac and respiratory causes, particularly among people with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions.


Air pollution causes heart disease and is linked to high blood pressure. It increases the risk of heart failure, heart attacks and stroke, especially in older people and those with existing cardiovascular conditions. 

Breathing air pollution over the long-term is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease in adults, including furring of the arteries, following long-term exposure. 

How does air pollution affect my lungs?

There is a strong link between air pollution and the worsening of asthma symptoms and it also plays a part in causing asthma in some individuals. 

Air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer.

Air pollution can increase the risk of bacterial pneumonia.

Exposure to air pollution is also linked to increases in coughs and bronchitis.

There is an association between exposure to the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide and cough and phlegm symptoms in adults.

What other health impacts are there from air pollution?

Air pollution leads to increased hospital admissions and emergency visits.

Air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, and may also increase the risk of bladder cancer.

High air pollution is linked to low birth weight and can lead to premature birth and pregnancy loss

Air pollution is linked to high blood pressure.

There is emerging evidence that air pollution increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Studies are showing that there may be an association between air pollution and poor mental health but more evidence is needed.

How does air pollution affect vulnerable people?

Babies and children are especially vulnerable to air pollution.  

“[Children’s] developing organs and immune systems – and smaller bodies and airways – make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation

Exposure to air pollution, both during pregnancy and after birth, can affect children’s lung function development. In areas of high air pollution, it could be setting some children up for health problems throughout their lives.

Amongst children with asthma, those exposed to higher levels of air pollution suffer more frequent chronic respiratory symptoms.

Green Facts Air Pollution Nitrogen Dioxide as retrieved 31/07/2015

To read more information and advice about air pollution and how to protect your family’s health, visit Me, my family and the air we breathe.