Air quality and health

Air pollution affects everyone who lives and works in London. The most vulnerable groups like children, older people and those with heart and respiratory conditions are most affected. People living in deprived areas are also more affected by poor air quality, partly because these areas are often near busy roads.

In 2008, we estimated that 4,267 deaths in London were due to long-term exposure to small particles.

You can read more about air quality and health here.

The two pollutants of most concern in London are:

Particulate matter (PM)

  • Particulate pollution can harm our heart and lungs - it is linked to asthma and death.

  • Research shows that particles with a diameter of ten microns and smaller (PM10) can be inhaled deep into the lungs.

  • As smaller particles can penetrate deeper, PM2.5 can have a particularly bad impact on health.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

  • At high concentrations, NO2 can inflame the airways.
  • Long-term exposure can affect lung function and breathing - it can also worsen asthma.
  • The health impacts of NO2 are less well understood than PM10, as there’s been less research on it.


Air quality guidance for public health professionals

Following the Health and Social Care Act, we have set up a Health and Wellbeing Board up in each London borough. These boards publish a Health and Wellbeing Strategy, based on the health priorities identified in the borough’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

We’ve also produced air quality guidance to help  public health professionals for every London borough. This  includes information on concentrations of air pollutants and how these affect health.

You can download these documents from the publications page.