Air pollution in the United Kingdom

Beata Niedźwiedzka

The British Medical Journal published in March 2023 an article "Pollution: 90% of world population breathes air that exceeds WHO targets on the particulate matter" by J. Wise discussing the issue of air pollution in the UK.

Air pollution in the UK has long been an issue of serious concern for the health of the population. Monitored levels of air quality in the UK regularly exceed legal limits set by the government, which has led to several lawsuits against the government for exceeding these targets, particularly for NO2 nitrogen dioxide.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental health threat in the UK, with external pollution estimated to contribute to 40,000 premature deaths a year, costing the UK economy around £20 billion ($25 billion) a year.

This does not include the number of deaths caused by indoor air pollution, which can come from sources such as cigarette smoke, incense, wood or coal burners for heating or energy, cleaning products, and cooking.

 <a href=


The health impacts of air pollution in the UK have been linked to diseases such as asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.

Within the areas of the UK where government legal limits for NO2 are exceeded, the highest exceedances of permitted NO2 concentration levels have been found in the Greater London area and South Wales, the West Midlands, and Glasgow.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) also poses a significant health risk in the UK. In IQAir's 2019 Global Air Quality Report, the most polluted city in the UK was the city of Chatham, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 15.2 µg/m3.

The next most polluted cities were Stockton (13.1 µg/m3), Belfast (12.9 µg/m3), Christchurch (12.8 µg/m3), and Sheffield (12.7 µg/m3), all of which exceed the World Health Organization's recommended annual exposure limit of 10 µg/m3 by more than 25%.

The history of air pollution in the UK is long. In 1952, there was The Great Smog of London also known as The Great Smog 1952, which lasted from December 5 to 9, 1952. It is estimated that about 10,000 people died as a result of this air pollution.

News source:

Beata Niedźwiedzka

GdL 5/2023