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frint cover of the leaflet DEFRA Open fires and wood-burning stoves

Air Quality


Air pollution is an important determinant of health. Poor air quality can cause both short and long-term effects on health. Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day. It has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. Air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months (DEFRA, 2007, Air Quality Strategy).


Air pollution also has negative impacts on our environment, both in terms of direct effects of pollutants on vegetation, and indirectly through effects on the acid and nutrient status of soils and waters. (Surrey-i, Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, Air Quality).


Air pollution is caused by a range of factors and people’s exposure will vary depending on the level of emissions, proximity to the source and dispersion of the pollutant. Sources include many components both natural and man-made. Particulate matter (measured by size of particle i.e. PM10 and PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide are considered to be the most dangerous, typically coming from man-made sources, such as traffic emissions and smoke from wood burning stoves and bonfires.

Front cover of the Defra Air Quality Strategy report

If you are vulnerable, check the latest  UK Air pollution forecast

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Surrey Air Alliance.jpg

Local air pollution has local causes. These are the simple things you can do to help improve air quality:

Getting around

  • When your car needs changing, think about buying an electric or hybrid electric vehicle.

  • Car share whenever you can.

  • Ensure that vehicle emissions are minimised through regular maintenance.

  • Switch off your engine when idling in traffic.

  • Walk and cycle or use public transport where possible.

At home


  • Insulate your home so there is less need to heat or cool it.

  • Turn the thermostat down.

  • Group online purchases to reduce the number of deliveries needed.

  • Instead of having bonfires, use other ways to dispose of your garden waste.

  • If you choose to burn, follow Defra's 

practical guidance for open fires and wood-burning stoves

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