Reducing your Personal exposure to Air Pollution
The air pollution that you experience during normal daily activities is called your personal exposure. Your exposure will depend on the levels of pollutants present in all the places you visit (or move through) and the time you spend in each place. Typically, these places would include your home, your daily travel and anywhere you spend time for work, study and leisure.
Your exposure is affected by how close you are to the source of the pollution; there are higher levels of air pollution the closer you are to the source, for example, vehicle exhausts. Babies in prams and young children may breathe up to 60% more polluted air than adults during the school run because their breathing zones are lower and, therefore, closer to vehicle exhausts. Where possible, try to keep away from the edge of the road when walking to reduce exposure. Transport is a major source of pollution with cars and taxis alone producing over 55% of all road transport greenhouse gas emissions. Changing how we travel can reduce how much pollution we create and how much pollution we are exposed to.
BE ACTIVE – helps reduce pollution, CO2 and helps the planet
Swapping the car for walking, cycling or e-biking, even just for one day a week, makes a significant impact on personal emissions in cities. Research finds that shifting to active transport can cut a quarter of personal carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport. When you can, avoid walking along the busiest roads, choose ways to get to your destination that use quieter streets, trips through parks and other green spaces or pedestrianised areas. Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads, and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%.
The Air Quality Alert service provides air quality forecasts each day over the entire year but only issues an alert whenever air pollution levels are forecast to be MODERATE, HIGH or VERY HIGH. Guidance outlined by health professionals is provided with each alert and below to enable you to make informed decisions and take any precautions necessary.
- Are unlikely to notice or suffer from any serious or lasting ill effects from levels of pollution that are commonly experienced in the UK, even when levels are described as “high” or “very high” according to the current criteria.
What to do when you receive a message
People with lung disorders and others sensitive to air pollution
- If you have asthma or another lung disease, your symptoms are unlikely to change when air pollution levels are 1 – 3 (low) or 4 – 6 (moderate). This applies whatever the time of year. However, your symptoms may get worse when air pollution reaches the 7 – 9 (high) or 10 (very high) bands, especially if you are elderly. People with diseases of the airways (such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] and asthma) should take similar steps to prevent or reverse the effects of air pollutants as they would with other triggers of asthma, such as cold air, exercise, and exposure to allergens such as pollen. If these steps don’t help, consult your doctor.
People with heart disease
- If you suffer from a heart condition and you notice a change in your symptoms, get medical advice as you normally would. Do not try to change your treatment yourself.
Health advice is based on the UK Air Quality Banding system approved by the Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollution Episodes (COMEAP). The system uses an index divided into four bands to provide more detail about air pollution levels in a simple way, similar to the sun index or pollen index.
When air pollution is LOW effects are unlikely to be noticed even by those who are sensitive to air pollution. Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
When air pollution is MODERATE individuals sensitive to air pollution may notice mild effects but these are unlikely to need action. Adults and children with lung or heart conditions, who experience symptoms should take preventative medication and consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.
When air pollution is HIGH individuals sensitive to air pollution may notice significant effects and may need to take action Adults and children with lung or heart conditions should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors and especially if they experience symptoms. People with Asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.
Very High (10)
When air pollution is VERY HIGH effects on individuals sensitive to air pollution, described for HIGH pollution, may worsen. Adults and children with lung or heart conditions and older people should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.