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Today's Pollution Index reading is 1 but what does that mean?


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Tell me more > Air quality and your health

The Government has identified the following pollutants that have most impact on your health

  • Nitrogen Oxides(NOx)
  • Particulates (PM10)
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Benzene (C6­H6)
  • 1,3 – Butadiene (C4H6)
  • Polycylic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

In Greater Manchester the most important of these pollutants are NOx and PM10s caused as a result of road traffic emissions.

Find out more about these pollutants and how they affect your health.

Information and advice
If your health is good, you will not usually experience any effects from air pollution except occasionally on the rare occasions when air pollution levels are high, when some people may feel eye irritation, coughing and tightness in the chest when breathing.

People with respiratory conditions, lung and heart disease especially if they are elderly might be more sensitive to changes in air pollution and their symptoms may increase if pollution levels are high. Each individual will have varying degrees of sensitivity, and they should consult a doctor if their condition worsens.

Pollution Band and Numerical Index
To help us understand a little better, pollution levels have been categorised into four bands, low to very high. Each of the bands represents how the health of people sensitive to air pollution may be affected; this is set out in the table below. However people with severe lung and heart conditions for example chronic bronchitis or emphysema might be more sensitive to changes in air pollution than the bands suggest.

Banding Index Health Descriptor
Low 1, 2, or 3 Effects are unlikely to be noticed even by individuals who know they are sensitive to air pollutants
Moderate 4, 5, or 6 Mild effects, unlikely to require action, may be noticed amongst sensitive individuals.
High 7, 8, or 9 Significant effects may be noticed by sensitive individuals and action to avoid or reduce these effects may be needed (e.g. reducing exposure by spending less time in polluted areas outdoors). Asthmatics will find that their 'reliever' inhaler is likely to reverse the effects on the lung.
Very High 10 The effects on sensitive individuals described for 'High' levels of pollution may worsen.

Exposure to Air Pollution
Air pollution levels will vary from area to area across the country and from day to day. The following factors influence pollution levels:

  • Local and regional sources of pollution
  • Landscape features and surroundings
  • Prevailing weather conditions and seasonal variations


Pollution levels
High Pollution We would expect high pollution levels to be worse in towns and cities with busy roads and heavy traffic next to high buildings and busy traffic junctions and also built up industrial areas where high levels of solid fuel (coal and wood) may be used for heating.
Lower Pollution Lower pollution levels would be expected in rural areas away from major roads and factories and in windy or wet weather.
Summer Smog Summer smog or photochemical smog as it is sometimes called is created when the suns rays come into contact with air pollution generally nitrogen dioxide and particulates. The resultant chemical reaction forms low –level ozone close to the ground, this is an irritant and carries great potential risk primarily to the respiratory system. Such smog episodes generally occur in urban areas i.e. cities on hot still days when there are high volumes of traffic, but can also occur in rural suburban areas.
Winter Smog Winter smog is caused by a mixture of air pollution, suspended particles and sulphur dioxide. These pollutants arising from road traffic and fuels used to provide electricity and heating in offices, factories and homes build up at ground level in urban areas and become trapped under a “lid” of cold air. This occurs on cold calm days, often after a clear, cloudless night and an early morning frost or mist close to the ground.

What can you do?


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