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What can I do?

 


Air pollution is a big health issue, but there are things that we can all do to make ourselves, our family and others safer.

 

Even small reductions in air pollution could help us to avoid new cases of disease. Here are our top 3 actions:

Walk and cycle more, especially using the back streets away from polluting traffic.

Avoid unneccessary burning, and use ready to burn materials if you do rely on wood for your heating.

If you do have to drive, switch your engine off when you're stationary, and try to choose electric vehicles where you can.

 

Keep scrolling for even more information and more ideas for actions that you can take at home and when out and about.

If you would like to find out more about where all the stats, facts and figures have come from, see our references page

How can I protect myself and my family in my own home?

a line illustration of a family made up of two adults and two children. The smallest child is holding the hand of one of the adults.


There are lots of easy things that you can do to help keep the air cleaner in your home for you and your family.

Be careful what and how much you burn

Burning in open fires or wood burning stoves can be a large contributor to local air pollution problems, and you should avoid using them as a heating source unless you have no alternative.

 

If you do need to use a wood burning stove, make sure to always use smokeless fuels or well-seasoned wood, that is wood that has had a chance to dry out properly, so it burns efficiently and with less pollution.

 

It can take around two years for logs to dry out, so make sure to look out for wood and logs in the shops that are labelled as “ready to burn”.

 

Make sure you don’t burn wood offcuts that have any chemicals or paint on them as this can give off lots of pollution.

 

Line illustration of a person holding a bag of ready to burn fuel, stood next to a pile of logs.
Line illustration of a saucepan. A lid is being put on it to contain the heat.

Keep your kitchen smoke free

 

When you are cooking, try to keep lids on pots whenever you can. This will reduce the amount of energy needed to cook and reduce the amount of pollution from your hob. It will also reduce the amount of moisture getting into the air, which can help to avoid mould.

 

When you can, open your windows or use extractor fans when you are cooking to keep pollution levels lower, especially if you have burned the toast!

 

Regularly service your boilers

 

Make sure your boiler is serviced each year to help keep it burning fuel cleanly. This should be carried out by a professional Gas Safe engineer.

 

This will reduce pollution being emitted from the boiler flu and prevent Carbon Monoxide from being created and builidng up inside your house. It will also make sure that your boiler isn’t wasting fuel (and money).

 

Line illustration of an engineer servicing a home boiler
Line illustration of a person opening a window

Make the most out of fresh air

 

Opening windows when you are cooking or cleaning can be a very good way to stop air pollution building up inside your house. It allows fresh air in and stops the concentration of pollution from getting too high.

 

Sometimes, if your home is near a busy road, air pollution from traffic can get into your house from the outside.

 

If you are worried about the levels of pollution near your home, think about which windows you open, and try to open those that are furthest away from the roads rather than those that are closet to the roads. Try to close your windows during rush hour when the outdoor air pollution is at its worst.

 

Save energy

 

Reducing the amount of energy that you use in your home will also help with air pollution, close to home and for the country as a whole.

 

If you insulate your home well, you can reduce the amount of energy that goes into keeping it warm. That means you will burn less gas, oil or wood, or use less electricity. And that means you are creating less pollution around your home.

 

Turning appliances off when you're not using them will also save electricity, and that will reduce the amount of air pollution created at power stations.

Will plants help air pollution at home?

 

Research that was carried out by NASA in 1989 showed that there are plants which can remove pollution from the air. Different plants were shown to remove different pollutants, and you will often see this research quoted in lots of different places.

 

However when you take the plants out of the experimental conditions this study was carried out in, and put the plants in a real home, the change they make is very small.

How can I protect myself and my family when I am out and about?

 

Line illustration of two adults and three children, and a dog, walking in a park.

 

Transport is a major source of pollution and changing how we travel can reduce how much pollution we create, and how much pollution we breathe in

Use people power

Walk, cycle or scoot whenever you can, rather than driving. Being stuck in traffic can expose you to lots of pollution. Polluted air from the exhaust of the vehicles in front can get sucked into your car, and often stays trapped there, meaning you might breathe in more of the pollution.

 

An experiment found that a car driver was exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and nine times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day.

A small child is on a scooter, one person is walking and a third is cycling. In the background is a queue of cars.

Take quieter routes

When you can, avoid walking along the busiest roads. Choose ways to get to your destination that use quieter streets, trips through parks and other green spaces or pedestrianised areas.

 

Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads, and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%.

 

You can also think about when you travel. If it is possible, avoid travelling at rush hour when the pollution levels are often much higher.

 

Young children can be especially vulnerable to pollution on busy routes. A recent experiment found children were exposed to 30% more toxic pollution than adults while walking to school.

 

What if I have to drive?

 

We know that sometimes going places by car is unavoidable, but there are still some things that you can do to reduce the impact on yourself, your family and your local community.

Don't idle. It is less polluting to turn your engine off and restart it after a minute or longer than to leave your engine running.

 

Drive smoothly. Anticipate the road conditions and drive smoothly, avoiding sudden sharp breaking or accelerating. This will reduce the amount of fuel you use, and therefore reduce your tailpipe emissions, and will also reduce wear on your brakes which can also contribute to particulate emissions.

 

Try electric. If you are looking into replacing your car, test drive an electric one. Lots of car clubs also offer electric vehicles, and there are more and more electric taxis on the road as well. 

 

 

Do face masks work?

 

Many of the face masks on the market don’t stop you from breathing in the smallest particles.

 

For them to work, face masks need to fit very snugly, and have very effective filters. Instead of relying on face masks try to take quieter routes away from traffic instead.

 

What decisions can I make when I'm shopping to reduce air pollution?

 

Choose low-chemical cleaning, DIY and personal care products

Try to choose fragrance free cleaning products and follow the instructions when using them to avoid using too much.

 

Instead of using aerosols, look for other options: use a roll-on deodorant rather than a spray or open the window for fresh air rather than using an air freshener.

 

When you are planning to decorate your house, choose paints which have a “low VOC” label on them.

 

Delivery options

 

Diesel vans are one of the largest sources of pollution on our local streets. How we get our online shopping delivered to us can be a big influence on how many  polluting delivery vehicles drive down our roads each day. 

 

 

Look out for green delivery slots: if you're booking a supermarket delivery, they will often indicate when they are already going to be in your area. Choosing one of these delivery slots means that the vans have to do fewer trips, reducing the amount of pollution they create.

 

Choose Click and Collect: Some online stores will give you a click and collect option, where they deliver to a local hub near you, such as nearby shop or locker. As well as avoiding the dreaded red card of a missed delivery, by choosing this option you again reduce the amount of mileage carried out by delivery vehicles.

 

 

How can I reduce air pollution when I'm working?

 

Work from home

 

If your job can be done remotely, working from home occasionally can reduce the number of times that you have to travel during high pollution periods, such as  rush hours and particularly high pollution days.

 

When you are working from home, try to keep your house well ventilated, and avoid burning candles or woodfires, as these contribute to air pollution too.

A person is sat at a table working on a laptop. There is a kettle and mug on the table in front of them. A cat is sat under the table.

Work flexibly

 

When you need to travel to work, see whether it is possible for you to work hours that allow you to avoid the worst of the rush hour. Can you start and leave a bit earlier or later so that you still complete the same number of hours, but miss the traffic?

If you'd like to work more flexibly, we've put together two template letters to help you start a conversation with your manager.

If you would like to find out more about where all the stats, facts and figures have come from, see our references page