Air quality

Clean air is important for human health and the environment.

Air pollution occurs when harmful substances are released into the air. The main pollutants affecting the air in Norfolk are nitrogen dioxide and particulates, but sulphur dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide, ground level ozone, benzene and, 1,3-butadiene are also of concern if emitted at high enough concentrations.

The aim of the air quality legislation and policy in the United Kingdom is to ensure that the air quality does not cause harm to human health and the environment.

Local Authorities have a statutory duty to review and assess local air quality under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995.

Where a Local Authority considers that one or more of the objectives are unlikely to be met and there is relevant exposure, it must declare an AQMA and develop an action plan setting out measures to work towards an improvement of the air quality in the area.

Local Authorities are required to submit all relevant air quality reports to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for acceptance.

The key statutory obligations are as summarised as follows:

Norfolk County Council

We have a statutory obligation under Environment Act 1995, Part IV, Section 80; Environmental Protection Act 1990 Section 7; Environment Act 1995, Part 4; Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 to prevent the pollution form emissions to air, land or water.

As the Highway Authority we are obliged to find solutions to air quality issues through the AQMA process where pollution comes from transport sources.

District Councils

All district councils have a statutory obligation under Environment Act 1995, Part IV, Section 80; Environmental Protection Act 1990 Section 7; Environment Act  1995, Part 4; Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 to prevent the pollution from emissions to air, land or water with obligations to continuously review and monitor air pollution.

For more information on their role, contact your local district, borough or city council.

Air quality management meetings are held quarterly between all the Districts and Norfolk County Council.

Frequently asked questions

Air pollution comes from a range of sources, including some nearby, like vehicles, industrial and agricultural processes, heating systems, and some from further afield.  The proportion of pollution that reaches us from each source depends on the weather, the location, the time of day, and several other factors. Wherever you are, you’ll breathe in some of this pollution.

There is no proven link between ambient air pollution and asthma. However studies suggest that asthma and other respiratory conditions can be aggravated by air pollution. The evidence to date indicates that this effect is relatively small when compared with several other factors that contribute to asthma symptoms, eg smoking. 

Source: Clean Air Day

Various surveys have found that pollution levels inside cars can be higher than those in the surrounding ambient air.  With modern cars, it is advisable to switch off car engines when stationary or while queuing in traffic, even for short periods. 

Source: DEFRA

Yes, it does! King's College London worked with Global Action Plan and the Cross River Partnership to measure the impact of ‘no-idling days’. The results showed that turning off engines had the most impact where pollution was highest and where the no-idling action was focused. In those places, air pollution peak concentrations were reduced by as much as 20-30%. 

Source: Clean Air Day

Would travelling outside or rush hour, or along less congested roads, significantly lessen any of the risks?

There is, at present, no clear answer to this question and we are unable to comment on the different levels of risk to individual persons. Cycling is becoming more accepted as a solution to urban air quality problems, and is recognised as a healthy form of exercise. It has been suggested that to a healthy person with no respiratory problems, the benefits of cycling may outweigh the effects of air pollution. Levels of pollution may be higher in the centre of the road, leading to greater exposure to drivers than to pedestrians and cyclists.

Read more about this on the DEFRA website.

Yes. You will be exposed to up to 20% less air pollution by choosing to cycle on a quieter route. The National Cycle Network is a countrywide network of cycle paths that pass through the centre of every major town in the UK. These are usually quieter roads or designated cycle ways, such as the pedalways cycle routes in Norwich

Source: Clean Air Day

There are many chemicals and organisms that can pollute the air in your home, from aerosol cans to cleaning material as noted below:

  • Volatile organic compounds (furniture and carpets)
  • Carbon monoxide (tobacco smoke - vaping does not produce carbon monoxide), heating and cooking appliances
  • Humidity (cooking, showering, washing and ironing)
  • Toxic (mould spores found in household dust)
  • Odours (cooking and pets)
  • Allergens (house dust mites)
  • Carbon dioxide (household appliances and residents)
  • Chemicals (bleach, deodorants, cleaning products and fabric softener)

Preventing indoor air pollution is sometimes easier than reducing or removing it.

Was this webpage helpful?