Air pollution is caused by gases and particles released into the atmosphere by various activities including transport (road, shipping, aviation), people burning wood and coal at home, industry and agriculture. Dust and sea salt also contribute to air pollution.

Air pollution can harm humans, animals, plants, and ecosystems. It also reduces visibility and corrodes materials, buildings, and cultural heritage sites.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), European Union and UK government have health-based limits for pollution, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) which are particles with a diameter of less than 10 or 2.5 micrometres.

Health impacts of pollution

In the UK, a 2016 study by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, estimated around 40,000 UK deaths each year can be attributed to outdoor air pollution.

In 2017, a Bristol City Council report found that around 300 deaths each year in the city can be attributed to air pollution. This equates to 8.5% of deaths in a year. Recent research by Imperial College London has confirmed these findings.

Monitoring air pollution

Bristol City Council has monitored air pollution in the city since the late 1990s. The council has eight continuous analysers, over 180 passive diffusion tubes that measure nitrogen dioxide and three sites that measure particulate matter pollution.

Data from the council’s monitoring stations can be viewed on the Open Data Bristol platform. A summary of the data on air pollution in Bristol is available from the 2020 Air Quality Annual Status Report.


Find out more about air pollution and its health effects: