The Science Bit This page lists the references for our air pollution information and advice on this site. The costs to society of air pollution are on a par with those from smoking and obesity according to the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee. (1) The connection between air pollution and our health has been studied for decades. Air pollution increases the risk of certain health problems, and makes some existing conditions worse: Air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, contributing to an estimated 1 in 13 cases (2) Breathing air pollution over the long term is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease in adults, including furring of the arteries (3) Air pollution may increase the risk of bladder cancer (4,5) Air pollution increases risk of death from cardiac and respiratory causes, particularly among people with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions (6) Air pollution leads to increased hospital admissions and emergency visits (7) There is emerging evidence that air pollution may increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes (3) Living close to heavy traffic is statistically associated with a higher incidence of dementia but further research is needed for a causal link to be confirmed (8) There is an association between exposure to the air pollutant NO2 and cough and phlegm symptoms in adults. (9) Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London: “All of the organs in the body seem to be affected in some way by breathing in air pollution.” (10) Our lungs develop in stages: in the womb, from birth until age three, and then up until adulthood. Because lungs are developing, exposure to air pollution in these stages has a more pronounced impact on children’s health. High air pollution is linked to low birth weight and premature birth (11) Exposure to air pollution, both during pregnancy and after birth, has an adverse effect on lung function development (12) There is a strong link between air pollution and the worsening of asthma symptoms and it is possible that it also plays a part in causing asthma in some individuals (3) Amongst children with asthma, those exposed to higher levels of air pollution suffer more frequent chronic respiratory symptoms (13) Higher daily concentrations of air pollutants are associated with increased asthma attacks, increased hospital admissions and increased daily mortality (14) Exposure to air pollution is also linked to increases in coughs and bronchitis (15) Air pollution can increase the risk of bacterial pneumonia (3) Research is beginning to point towards effects of air pollution on the developing brain but more research is needed. (3) Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “[Children’s] developing organs and immune systems – and smaller bodies and airways – make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.” (16) Leave the car at home whenever possible. Walk, cycle or take public transport instead. (17) Avoid idling. Turning a vehicle’s engine off while stationary protects the health of people in the car behind and on the pavement. When buying a new car, ask your car dealer to find a low pollution model that works for you. Petrol cars produce less pollution than diesel, and cleaner alternative fuel vehicles such as electric, hybrid or LPG cars are catching on fast. Over 88,000 motorists chose cleaner fuel vehicles in the UK in 2016. (18) Consider where parcels get delivered. Many city centre workplaces report that personal deliveries make up half the incoming post – and the delivery vans increase city centre congestion. New click-collect services will deliver parcels to a convenient less-congested place, such as your local train station or corner shop. (19) In urban areas, avoid using a wood burning stove too often. If buying a new stove, chose a cleaner Defra approved model, and use authorised fuel, especially in a smoke control area. (20) Try ways to use the car less. Car share, or try smart-working. Having a lie-in, finding extra leisure time or spending more time with the kids were amongst the benefits reported by employees at one company where 90% began working from home one day a week. (21) Service the car and central heating boiler regularly to help them run as efficiently and cleanly as possible. Save energy at home – using less energy, means less fossil fuels are combusted. Keep car tyres inflated and drive efficiently to help save fuel. (22) Choose renewable energy tariffs to cut out pollution caused by fossil fuel power stations. Avoid open fires: instead of burning garden waste, try composting instead. Email or tweet your local councillor to let them know you support swift action on air pollution. Local councils have responsibility for tackling air pollution, and knowing that local people are behind air quality action can help councillors approve measures that combat pollution more quickly. (24) Talk to other parents at your child’s school to make a better school run. Car sharing or a walking bus often cut traffic at the school gate by 30% - a sure fire way to make the air cleaner for children. Find out how with the WOW challenge. (25) Ask your child’s head teacher, your local councillor, or your employer’s HR director how you can help their plan to protect people from air pollution. If they haven’t yet got a plan, maybe you can help them to create one from these actions. Ask companies how they reduce air pollution. Some companies offer low-pollution services. For example, Great Ormond Street Hospital recommends only electric taxi firms for pick-ups for visitors and patients. Avoid main roads and take lower traffic routes when on foot or on a bike. Using quieter streets can reduce exposure to pollution by 20%. (26) Be physically active. The benefits of exercise outweigh the harm from air pollution you may be exposed to. Exercise also protects against poor health, and reduces pollution if it means leaving the car at home. On high pollution days avoid strenuous exercise outdoors if you suffer from lung or heart problems. High pollution days typically occur only 10 to 20 days a year. Forecasts and personal alerts for your area are free to access. Avoid sitting in a vehicle in heavy traffic. Air pollution can build up inside vehicles. An experiment found that a car driver was exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and 9 times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day. (26) Blocking out pollution helps – such as closing windows during rush hour in buildings that face busy roads. But ensure good ventilation indoors. Walk on the inside of the pavement, and avoid walking on the kerb. Stay as far away from exhaust fumes as you can. When stuck in traffic, close the car windows and turn on the air conditioning to stop some pollution entering the vehicle, but use it sparingly as recirculating air increases the build-up of carbon dioxide which can cause driver drowsiness. Travel outside rush hour to avoid peaks in pollution caused by traffic jams. Change or clean your car air filter regularly. Eating a healthy diet reduces the risk of developing health problems (e.g. heart disease) that are made worse by air pollution. (27) References (1) https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenvaud/1024/1024.pdf (2) http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/air-pollution-radon-gas-and-cancer/how-air-pollution-can-cause-cancer (3) https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution (4) http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/pr221_E.pdf (5) http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol109/index.php (6) Chiusolo M et al (2011) EpiAir Study http://1.usa.gov/1KkyxQ7 (7) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116302925#bib1 (8) http://thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32399-6/fulltext (9) Green Facts Air Pollution Nitrogen Dioxide as retrieved 31/07/2015 http://bit.ly/1HRf5ap (10) https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/news/air-pollution (11) WHO (2005) Effects of air pollution on children’s health and development http://bit.ly/1LtkFWE (12) http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/74728/E86575.pdf (13) Green Facts Air Pollution Nitrogen Dioxide as retrieved 31/07/2015 http://bit.ly/1HRf5ap (14) EPA Health Effects of Ozone in the general population https://www.epa.gov/ozone-pollution-and-your-patients-health/health-effects-ozone-general-population (15) http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/74728/E86575.pdf (16) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/06/pollution-quarter-of-deaths-of-young-children-who (17) http://www.dft.gov.uk/vca/fcb/cars-and-air-pollution.asp (18) https://www.smmt.co.uk/2017/01/uk-new-car-market-achieves-record-2-69-million-registrations-in-2016-with-fifth-year-of-growth/ (19) http://crossriverpartnership.org/news/click-collect-clean-air/ (20) https://www.gov.uk/smoke-control-area-rules (21) Smart-at-work programme with a large employer managed by Global Action Plan 2012 (22) http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/reports/5984 EST A4 ecodriving guide_v6.pdf (23) https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat14/1210261047_Individuals_interpretation_of_air_quality_information_customer_insight_&_awareness_study.pdf (24) Search for “Air Quality Action Plan” and the name of your council. Every area with serious air pollution problem has an AQAP. (25) https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/what-we-do/projects/wow (26) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2014/aug/12/london-air-pollution-public-transport-video (27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690091/ Wha What are your plans for Clean Air Day? Why not walk or cycle to work or school - and if you already do this, organise an event? For more information on how to do this in your community, at work or in school, download one of our free toolkits.