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Health impacts

Date updated: 11/08/2023

Short-term health impacts

Exposure to air pollution has a range of impacts on health. Short term exposure mainly affects people who are already classed as ‘vulnerable’, which means they have an existing condition which is aggravated by high levels of air pollution. Children and the elderly can also be vulnerable to short term exposure to high levels of air pollution. Air pollution can exacerbate asthma and affect lung and heart function. There is evidence that both PM2.5 and PM10 cause additional hospital admissions on high pollution days for those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

Long-term health impacts

Long-term exposure to high levels of pollution affects the whole population, not just the vulnerable. This is particularly the case for long-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5. Nitrogen dioxide has been associated with adverse effects on hospital admissions, a decrease in lung function and growth, increase in respiratory disease and incidences of asthma.

For further information visit Health matters: Air Pollution and the Government's policy paper - Air Quality: explaining air pollution.

Visit our Air quality monitoring page for advice on how to minimise your exposure to air pollution.

Air Pollution and Health PDF (320KB)
Date submitted: 10/02/22