Air Quality: Forecasting pollution

Getting out in the fresh air has become increasingly important to many of us.

But the question has to be asked - how fresh is the air we are breathing?

The air around us can have a serious impact on our health - with an estimated 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year caused by long term exposure to man-made air pollution.

But what are the causes?

Professor Alastair Lewis is from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and says some of the causes can be surprising:

Anything from burning fuel, to agriculture, to dust from the Sahara Desert can affect the air we breath. The consequences can be very serious.

Short-term effects:

  • exacerbation of asthma

  • coughing and wheezing

  • shortness of breath

Long-term effects

  • stroke

  • lung cancer

  • respiratory disease

  • cardiovascular disease

Professor Jonathan Grigg is a Professor of Paediatric and Environmental Medicine, he says the impact of poor air quality can be felt before birth, and beyond.

Some places will always struggle with air quality owing to locations being close to traffic or certain types of manufacturing.

At other times the pollution is more wide spread, affecting large parts of the country.

When this is the case an "Air Quality Forecast" can help with decisions about how best to stay healthy.

Maps, like the example below, can pre-warn when air pollution will be particularly bad.

Air pollution map

The advice about what to do in different areas will then depend on your own health concerns:

Pollution - advice

It is clear that we all need to be aware of the quality of the air around us - and the actions to take when pollution can have an effect on our health.

To stay aware - you can find the daily Air Pollution forecast here on the Clean Air Hub.