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The following advice has been issued by the British Lung Foundation.

british lung foundation logoWhat can I do about air pollution?

On most days and away from busy city streets, air pollution in the UK does not rise to levels at which we need to make major changes to our habits to avoid exposure.

Nobody needs to worry about going outdoors. Children should not be kept from going to school or stopped from taking part in games.

If you have a lung condition, you might want to avoid spending long periods of time in places where there are high levels of air pollution, such as near busy traffic or where pollution generated by industry adds to pollution produced by traffic.

In general, everyone who is able should try to reduce their contribution to air pollution by walking or cycling rather than taking the car, particularly for short trips. This will reduce emissions and keep you active too. You could also consider public transport or sharing a car.

If you have a car, ensure it is serviced regularly to minimise its contribution to air pollution. If you have a diesel car, do not remove the diesel particulate filter on your exhaust, and make sure it is maintained and emptied regularly.

What to do when air pollution levels are high

When levels of air pollution are high for short periods, if you or your child has a lung condition:

  • reduce or avoid strenuous, outdoor exercise. The benefits of exercise are great if you have a lung condition, so make sure you exercise indoors in a well-ventilated room or gym instead.
  • stay away from pollution hotspots such as main roads and road junctions
  • try to get to work a little earlier before rush hour has begun and levels of pollution have built up
  • take back streets away from the bulk of vehicle congestion if you cycle, run or walk as part of your commute
  • make sure that, if you use one, you carry your reliever inhaler with you
  • if you have asthma, use your preventer inhaler regularly
  • if in a vehicle, keep the windows closed and recycle air

If you find your condition is getting worse, or if you are getting wheezy or coughing from walking outside, get in touch with your doctor.

Anyone who experiences discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing their levels of physical exertion outdoors.

There is little evidence to recommend the use of face masks. Wearing one can be uncomfortable and can make breathing more difficult.

The British Lung Foundation's campaign to improve air quality is summarised below:

Our plan

We want government to…

  1. Prioritise air pollution across Government departments so that every part of the UK meets the legal limits for pollution by 2020

  2. Introduce a new independent real-world emissions test to ensure that vehicles being driven on British roads meet legal limits 

  3. Protect children by measuring, reporting and acting on air pollution near schools, supporting teachers and governors to reduce child exposure to pollutants 

  4. Invest in public health campaigns so that people better understand the health risks of air pollution and how to protect themselves 

  5. Improve pollution monitoring so that people living in every part of the UK have timely, comprehensive information on key dangerous pollutants in their local area 

  6. Clean up public transport by speeding up the introduction of cleaner buses and taxis

  7. Introduce carefully-designed low emission zones (or equivalents) that will clear the air in our cities without penalising the most vulnerable.


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