The pollutants we measure for in your postcode area
PM2.5 stands for Particulate Matter that is less than 2.5 microns in size (a human hair is about 70 microns thick). These are very fine particles that we can inhale. Because they are so small, they can penetrate the lungs and enter our bloodstream, posing a substantial threat to our health.
Primary components of PM are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, ammonia and VOCs (benzene, toluene). PM is mainly produced by road traffic: when vehicle fuel is burnt, when tyres and brakes wear down, and from road dust.
A study from Harvard University in 2020 showed that an increase of only 1 microgram of PM2.5 per m3 is associated with an 8% increase in the Covid-19 death rate.
PM10 stands for Particulate Matter that is less than 10 microns in size (a human hair is about 70 microns thick). It is estimated that PM10 exposure in the UK in 2002 led 6,500 deaths and 6,400 hospital admissions.
Particulate Matter can cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness, and even death. Groups particularly at risk are people with pre-existing lung or heart disease, asthmatics, diabetics, as well as children and the elderly.
Aqua Perfecta works with an air monitoring agency, to bring you PM2.5 & PM10 air quality data in your postcode.
Ground-Level Ozone (O3) is the main cause of smog, and occurs when pollutants mix with heat and sunlight resulting in chemical reactions which create new pollutants. Unlike, the ‘stratospheric ozone’ which helps to protect us from the damaging rays emitted by the sun, ground-level smog is purely a pollutant. Aside from its large contribution toward climate change, it is a key health risk linked to breathing problems, asthma, reduced lung function and respiratory diseases.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is a gas emitted into the atmosphere that has been directly linked with increased symptoms of bronchitis and asthma, as well as leading to respiratory infections and reduced lung function and growth. Along with the direct impact it also contributes to particulate matter and ground-level ozone discussed above.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is a harmful gas emitted into the atmosphere which can also mix very easily with other substances to form harmful compounds such as sulphuric acid, sulphurous acid and sulphate particles. It can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and also causes inflammation of the respiratory system. This can lead to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath and aggravates symptoms of asthma and chronic bronchitis.
In the UK, of all the different pollutants, NO2 and PM2.5 stand out as being of particular concern. Safe levels of NO2 are frequently exceeded, and while PM2.5 does not exceed its limits, the threshold is set higher than that recommended by the WHO. Although not in isolation, vehicle emissions are one of the greatest sources of NO2 and PM2.5. In 2019, NO2 concentration above the legal limit was recorded in 38 out of 63 cities with monitored roads.
Geographically, London had the highest proportion of these with 40% of monitored roads exceeding the limit. The greatest single offending road had twice the legal limit. Around 62% of monitored roads in UK cities exceed the WHO guidelines for annual levels of PM2.5. The greatest offender was a road in London, followed by others in Portsmouth, Aldershot, Chatham and Reading.
At a local authority level, current legislation does not require air pollution objectives to be met. Overall, the government response has been very slow and air pollution remains a serious issue in the UK.