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Air pollution

What is air pollution?

Clean air is essential for a good quality of life. Air becomes polluted when it contains substances which can have a harmful effect on the environment and/or health. We sometimes see images of smog or may have experienced the smell or taste of pollution in the air. However, air pollution can be both visible and invisible, odorous and without odour.

Where does it come from?

Air pollution comes from any activity or process that introduces a substance that is not usually present in the air or which affects the normal composition of the air. Combustion, or burning fuel, is a common cause of air pollution. Burning may be done to power vehicles, heat buildings, for cooking or when having a bonfire. Other sources of air pollution include industrial sources, painting, construction dust and natural sources. Find out more information on various air pollutants and their sources.

What are the health effects?

There is agreement that air pollution can impact on human health if individuals are exposed to certain levels over a period of time. The pollutants that impact on health and can occur locally in the ambient air have been identified. For each pollutant, teams of health professionals have generally agreed on the levels and time periods when health effects are likely to occur although the extent of the effects is likely to vary from one person to the next. The health effects range from irritation of the eyes, nose and airways to aggravation of respiratory illnesses, heart problems and cancers. You can find out more information about the health effects from different pollutants by visiting the Health effects page on the LondonAir website.