Air Pollution Guide » Improving air quality

Pollution GuideFind out about the following:
Key Points:
  • The wide range of emission sources means that action to combat air pollution must be at a local, national and international level.
  • A number of measures are in place, or planned, as a result of National and International law. These are expected to have significant effect on pollution levels.
  • Local Authorities are now required to review and assess air quality in their area. This may lead to the declaration air quality management areas.
  • Local authorities have been given a wide range of powers to execute air quality management plans and achieve improvements in air quality.
  • Individuals can have a direct impact on air pollution. A range of measures at home, at work and travelling can not only reduce emissions but also save money.
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There is no single source of air pollution and action to reduce emissions has to be taken at international, national and local levels. Choices made by each of us in our everyday life can, and do, affect emissions and there is scope for us all to make a contribution to improvement schemes.
National and International Action
It is clear that no single source of pollution can be identified. Different sources will be more important in different locations and pollutants have the capacity to travel over large distances between towns and even between countries. Actions to reduce emissions must reflect this. European and National Objectives have been set to combat the problem of air pollution.
The measures proposed, or currently in place include constraints on factory emissions, new car specifications and fuel quality and many other measures.
Nationally, controls are affected on industry by both local authorities and the Environment Agency under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This enacts the principle of Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) where all pollutants from an industrial source are considered together and the requirement to control emissions using the best available technology not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC). This process is currently under review.
Local Authorities are now required to review and assess air quality in their area. If national and international measures are not thought to be sufficient to meet the Government's Air Quality Strategy Objective, the local authority must declare an air quality management area and devise an air quality management plan following local consultation. Local authorities have been given a wide range of powers to execute this plan and achieve improvements in air quality. Further details of can be found in the Government's Air Quality Strategy.
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Individual Action
It is clear from consideration of the sources of pollution that decisions that we take about the way we use energy and other products have direct impact on air pollution. Since energy costs money reducing pollution can save you money. There is considerable opportunity for all of us to take simple measures to reduce air pollution. A number of measures are discussed below:
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Avoid using your car for short journeys. This will be true of many urban areas. These trips may be easily and sometimes more quickly undertaken by other means, such as walking or cycling.
On short journeys both engines and catalysts do not reach optimum operating temperatures. If you have to make short journeys by car try to combine them.
Ensure that your car is properly tuned and maintained and that tyres are correctly inflated.
Remember that vehicle idling produces pollution to. If safe to do so, switch off your engine if you expect to be stationary for around a minute or longer. Avoid idling to warm your engine more than you have to and minimise use of the choke.
Think about the way that you drive. Rapid acceleration and deceleration are bad for fuel consumption and therefore for pollution. Avoid driving too fast; fuel consumption rapidly increases above 55mph.
Filling your car with petrol or diesel causes emissions of hydrocarbons. Try to avoid this during summertime pollution incidents and avoid parking your vehicle in the sun.
Think about public transport alternatives. When comparing the cost of transport consider the full cost of motoring rather than just the marginal cost of fuel. The AA and RAC calculate the cost of motoring to be around 35p per mile.
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At Home
Try to use energy efficiently. Consider turning down your heating thermostat, investing in home insulation and buying low energy light bulbs. These measures can save money in the long term. Even closing curtains at night can help.
Avoid having bonfires particularly when pollution levels are high and do not burn domestic waste such as rubber and plastics.
Think about the use of petrol driven lawnmowers and other garden appliances. These are often badly maintained and very polluting.
When decorating try to use water based or low solvent paints glues and varnishes. Put off decorating during high levels of air pollution.
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At Work
As an employee think about energy use as you would do at home.
As an employer consider investing in energy efficiency. Free advice is available to allow you to benefit from others best practice contact the Energy Efficiency Enquires Bureau on (01235) 436747.
Consider car sharing. Opportunity to set up car sharing schemes formally or informally exists, particularly for work journeys.
Try to make business trips by public transport. It is often possible to spend the time traveling productively.
As an employer consider encouraging Green Commuting Schemes such as season ticket loans, provision for the safe storage of cycles and shower facilities.
There are many more reports available on the various aspects of air pollution. Some of these are available through our reports page.
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