Air Pollution: What you need to know

Air pollution is an ongoing health issue which, although temporarily slowed by the lockdowns, has returned to dangerous pre-pandemic levels across much of the UK. 

Reporter Joe Crowley investigates what’s been done to tackle the problem and the implications it may have for us all.

Since 2010, the Government has failed to meet national legal limits of air pollution, which is resulting in around 11,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation. 

The two main pollutants that can affect our health are Nitrogen dioxide, mainly from vehicle exhausts, and fine particles called ‘particulate matter’ which are primarily produced from burning solid fuels like wood or coal. 

Sarah MacFadyen is Head of Policy at the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK. 

In August a United Nations report predicted things would get significantly worse unless world governments start taking action right now. With the UK playing host to the COP26 summit very soon, the hope is that countries will unite to get runaway climate change under control.

Tonight takes a look at what is currently being done in cities like Birmingham, which has implemented a Clean Air Zone for traffic around one of it’s ring roads, as well as the real life implications of air pollution on our health.  

Councillor Waseem Zaffar from Birmingham City Council told Tonight:

It isn’t just vehicle emissions that are contributing to our poor air quality, the latest government data claims domestic fires create more than three times the tiny particulate pollution than all of the road transport in the UK.

Back in 2015, Tonight carried out an experiment with two commuters, to find out how much pollution they were exposed to during their daily routines. This time around, they’ve come back to test it out again, along with reporter Joe, and some of their results are shocking - despite the lifestyle changes they have made since the last programme. 

'Air Pollution: What You Need to Know?' is on ITV1 this Thursday 21st October at 7:30pm.

Useful links

Find out about the air quality in your area via DEFRA’s air pollution forecast map - 

The British Lung Foundation offers support and advice via their helpline, get in touch at - 

Check if your car needs to pay to enter Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone at 

Learn more about the work that environmental law charity Client Earth does at - 

The Ella Roberta Family Foundation, which raises awareness of the dangers of air pollution and asthma, in memory of Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah -  

The 2020 study by the Royal College of Physicians - “The inside story: Health effects of indoor air quality on children and young people” can be found here - 

Check if your appliances carry the clearSkies certification mark at -