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Air Pollutants

About air pollutants

The National Air Quality Strategy 1997 was established to control and protect air quality in the United Kingdom. Air Quality Standards were created for eight main air pollutants that are known to harm human health.

The eight pollutants are as follows:

  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Particulates (PM10)
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • Lead
  • Ozone
  • Sulphur dioxide

The standards set for each pollutant are concentrations over a given time period that are considered to be acceptable in light of what is known about the effects of each pollutant on health and on the environment. They can also be used as a benchmark to see if air pollution is getting better or worse.

In order to simplify the interpretation of air quality monitoring results for the general public the government has created the air pollution public information service. The service uses four bands to describe levels of air pollution.

  • Low
  • Moderate
  • High
  • Very High

To help define these bands further each parameter has a numerical index and a health descriptor attached that advises of the possible health effects of the current air quality.  Please refer to the table on the right.