What effect does air pollution have on your health?

Air pollution is a significant cause of poor health and the single biggest environmental threat to health.

There is no safe amount for anyone to breathe in, and levels in the UK are extremely damaging to health. The majority of this pollution is coming from vehicle emissions, especially from older diesel engines.

Some people are more susceptible to harm

Air pollution can affect us all, but we know that pregnant women, children, older people, people living with lung conditions and those on the lowest incomes are being hit the hardest. This is likely to include people experiencing long-term breathing challenges from COVID-19.

It is having devasting impacts on people’s lungs

It can stunt the growth of children’s lungs, worsen existing lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, and cause new lung conditions like lung cancer.

Health effects of air pollution

Short-term effects

  • inflammation and irritation of the lining of your airways, which can cause symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing 
  • asthma attacks, heart attacks or COPD flare-ups for people with lung or heart conditions, and potentially hospitalisation

Long-term effects

  • increased chance of early death, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • damage to developing lungs and brains during pregnancy
  • increased chance of low birth weight and premature birth
  • likely to cause new cases of asthma
  • stunted and smaller lungs in children, increased lung infections and chance of future lung problems
  • potentially increased risk of type 2 diabetes and dementia