Air Pollution and Asthma

Air pollution makes the air we breathe harmful and damages our health. It can damage almost every part of our body including our lungs, heart and brain.

Those whose health is most at risk from the impacts of air pollution are:

  • Children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly people
  • People with some long-term health conditions

Air pollution (poor air quality) puts children at a higher risk because their lungs are still growing and developing. It can cause breathing problems or make existing breathing problems worse. Children who are exposed to air pollution are more likely to develop long-term breathing conditions like asthma.

Find out more about how air quality affects children’s lungs from Asthma + Lung UK

Outdoor Air Pollution

Higher levels of outdoor air pollution are generally found in towns and cities, where there’s more road traffic. If you walk or drive on main roads to get to work or school, you’ll be exposed to pollution from traffic fumes.

Children may have higher exposure levels to traffic fumes because they are shorter and are closer to the ground. Children also breathe a little bit faster than adults do, so they breathe in more vehicle fumes.

Air pollution is also increased around building sites, factories, power stations and airports. Homes using coal fires or wood burning stoves also contribute to air pollution and in the countryside, farming can also cause poor air quality.

Health and Outdoor Air Pollution – Top Tips

  1. Know how polluted the air is where you live and find out how to protect you and your family. Check daily air pollution forecasts in your area.
  2. Walk rather than drive if you can - air pollution can be up to 5 times higher in a car than outside.
    1. Choose a walking route away from busy roads.
    2. Walk on the side of the pavement furthest away from the road.

Indoor Air Pollution

90% of our time is spent indoors, whether that’s in school, the office, travelling by car, bus or train or simply being in our own homes.  Dust, dirt, or gases found in the air inside buildings can be harmful for us to breathe.

Examples of indoor air pollutants include:

  • Moulds
  • Chemical fumes (for example from cleaning products)
  • Smoke
  • Allergens (for example from pets or house dust mites)
  • Gases from heating and burning (for example from candles or fires)

Anyone can be affected by indoor air pollution, but children who have asthma are more likely to be affected as their lungs are more sensitive.

Health and Indoor Air Pollution – Top Tips 

  1. Open your windows where possible, even in the winter for short periods during the day to let stale air out and fresh air in.
    1. If you live on a busy road, open the windows on the side furthest away from the road and during the quietest traffic times.
  2. Cooking contribute to indoor air pollution and condensation.
    1. Use a cooker hood or extractor fan when cooking.
    2. Keep lids on pans when cooking.
  3. Think about how your home is heated. Wood burning stoves and open fireplaces release high levels of air pollutants.
    1. If you have no other heating option then only burn untreated, fully dried wood, labelled as ‘ready to burn’.
  4. Dry clothes outside, when possible, but if you must dry them indoors place them on an airer near an open window and close the door.
  5. Open windows when cleaning and decorating.
    1. Use cream cleaners and scentless or low scent products.
    2. Choose paints labelled ‘low in VOCs’ and store any part-used paint pots in a shed or garage if possible.