[Image source: Public Health England]

What is Air Quality?

Air quality is the term we use to describe how polluted the air we breathe is. When air quality is poor, pollutants in the air may be hazardous to people, particularly those with lung or heart conditions. Clean air is a basic requirement of a healthy environment for us all to live in, work, and bring up families.

Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK. The World Health Organisation and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the term given to the small particles, chemicals and gases that are released into the air. These air pollutants can have a harmful impact on the environment and our health if they are inhaled. The most harmful pollution includes nitrogen oxides, fine secondary particulate matter and ozone. These are all associated with negative health outcomes.

Do you want to find out what the air quality is like in your area? Visit the Daily Air Quality Index to find out the air pollution levels for your postcode each day. Follow the simple steps for what to do based on your risk level.

Defra air pollution forecast maps (DAQI – Daily Air Quality Index) – “Tells you about levels of air pollution. It also provides health advice in the form of recommended actions you may wish to take, according to the level of air pollution. ”

Can you see air pollution?

When there are too many of these particles (pollution), we can sometimes physically see the effects in the air as ‘smog’. You may have seen soot or dust in the air before when you’ve visited somewhere, or in pictures. When smog is visible that means the air is very dangerous to breathe. However, most of the time air pollution can’t be seen. Like oxygen, the particles can be invisible, but that doesn’t stop them from being very harmful.

How can air pollution affect someone’s health?

In general air quality around Suffolk is good, and the harm to health will be small for the population as a whole. However, since we know that it is likely to contribute to ill health in some people, particularly in those who are more at risk (eg adults and children with heart or lung conditions), then we need to ensure we are all working to improve air quality where we can. It’s important to be informed and that all of us take steps to reduce air pollution.

A presentation on Air Quality and Health was given by UKHSA at the Suffolk Air Quality Summit, and can be viewed here on Youtube. It is 15 minutes and 17 seconds long.

Visit the ‘Health Matters: Air Pollution‘ guidance on the Government website for more information.

Suffolk Air Quality Profile

The aim of the Suffolk Air Quality (AQ) Profile is to increase understanding of the public health impact of poor air quality on health in Suffolk and to act as a catalyst for further action.  This will be achieved by describing:

  • the impact of poor air quality on the public’s health
  • identifying areas of concern within Suffolk
  • what can be done to mitigate the harmful impact of poor air quality

You can find out more about the Suffolk AQ Profile here.

[Image source: Public Health England]