What is air pollution and how does it affect our health?

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An air pollutant is any substance in the air that could harm people or the ecosystem. Pollutants can be solid particles, liquid droplets or gases and can be either man-made or natural. They include particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone. Air pollution tends to be higher in towns and cities where sources of pollution, such as road traffic, are more concentrated.

If your health is good, the levels of air pollution we usually experience in the UK are unlikely to have any serious short-term effects. But on the rare occasions when air pollution levels are high, some people may feel eye irritation, others may start to cough, and some may find that breathing deeply hurts, particularly during exercise or outdoor activities.

Those most susceptible to serious health problems from air pollution are people with heart disease or lung disease, pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those who work outdoors.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs website has more information about air pollution and how it can impact health.

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