Air pollution is how we describe clean air that has been mixed with dirty fumes, gases and harmful chemicals in the atmosphere. When this happens, we say the air is ‘polluted’. The dirty fumes, gases and chemicals are often called ’emissions’ or ‘pollutants’.
Question time – Is there a difference between the air you breath next to a busy road and in the countryside? Why do you think this is?
An air pollution episode is how we describe a period of poor air quality, sometimes lasting up to several days. Air pollution episodes can happen in summer or winter.
One of the main pollutants in York is nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is a brown gas which can irritate your eyes, nose and throat.
If you suffer from asthma, you may have trouble breathing (or you may start wheezing) when there is lots of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere.
Question time – there are lots of different pollutants, can you name any others? Why do you think nitrogen dioxide is the main pollutant in York? (Hint : think about where nitrogen dioxide might come from)
What causes air pollution?
The main causes of air pollution in York are :
- Traffic is one of the main causes of air pollution in York. Most vehicles produce pollution but larger, older vehicles tend to produce more pollution than newer, smaller vehicles. Electric vehicles tend to be the most environmentally friendly. Why do you think this is? If your parents are thinking of buying a new car, ask them to consider one that is environmentally friendly
- Emissions from large chimney stacks.Factories or power stations might often produce lots of dirty gases and fumes. These can contribute to air pollution in York. Sometimes the dirty gases and fumes may be blown into York from other areas.
- Emissions from boilers used for heating our homes and workplaces contribute to air pollution. These are called ‘commercial and domestic emissions’
Air pollution – why should it interest me?
When you breath dirty, polluted air you are more likely to become ill and develop problems with your health.
Air pollution can often make you cough or make your chest feel tight. If you suffer from asthma, you might find that air pollution makes your asthma worse. It is usually the very young, the elderly or people who have existing medical conditions that are affected the most by poor air quality.
Air pollution can also make the environment less attractive to visitors and can cause damage to the beautiful historic buildings we have in York.
Question time : Do you know anyone who might be particularly affected by poor air quality?
Hopefully you can see that air quality is a very important topic! If you’ve read everything on this page, find out about how the Council measures air pollution by clicking on this link.