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It's important to know exactly what these pollutants can do and what band is the most likely to effect you, these can all vary according to your health.

The following descriptions are obtained from the Environmental Research Group of Kings College London, using data from the London Air Quality Network. This information is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence.


What are the pollutants we monitor?

CO (Carbon Monoxide):
Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas produced by incomplete, or inefficient, combustion of fuel including 'cold' or badly tuned engines.

The gas affects the transport of oxygen around the body by the blood. At very high levels, this can lead to a significant reduction in the supply of oxygen to the heart, particularly in people suffering from heart disease.


NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide):
Nitrogen oxides are formed during high temperature combustion processes from the oxidation of nitrogen in the air or fuel.

Nitrogen Dioxide has several health impacts and includes general irritation to the eyes, irritation of the respiratory system and shortness of breath.


O3 (Ozone):
Ozone is not directly emitted, but is formed by a complex set of reactions involving nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight.

Like nitrogen dioxide, high levels of ozone can irritate and inflame the lungs. It can also cause eye irritation, migraine and coughing.


PM10 (PM10 Particulate):
Larger particles in the atmosphere are generally filtered in the nose and throat and do not cause problems, but particulate matter smaller than about 10 micrometers, referred to as PM10, can settle in the bronchi and lungs and cause health problems.

Like nitrogen dioxide, high levels of ozone can irritate and inflame the lungs. It can also cause eye irritation, migraine and coughing.


PM2.5 (PM2.5 Particulate):
These are particles which are less than 2.5 micrometers (a thousandth of a millimetre) in diameter. Particles are made up of many different chemicals, including toxic metals and organic compounds, some of which are highly chemically reactive and researchers consider these to be involved in the toxicological effects of particles.

They are thought to have a greater effect on health than larger particles as they can be carried deeper into the lungs where they can cause inflammation and worsen heart and lung diseases.


SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide):
Sulphur Dioxide is produced when a material or fuel containing sulphur is burned. Pollution episodes only generally occur where there is widespread domestic use of coal or in the vicinity of coal or oil-fired power stations.

Short-term exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide may cause coughing, tightening of the chest and irritation of the lungs.



What do the bands mean?

Band 1 - 3 (at risk indivduals):
Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.


Band 1 - 3 (general population):
Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.


Band 4 - 6 (at risk indivduals):
Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.


Band 4 - 6 (general population):
Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.


Band 7 - 9 (at risk indivduals):
Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.


Band 7 - 9 (general population):
Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.


Band 10 (at risk indivduals):
Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.


Band 10 (general population):
Reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.

Created by Joe McAlister

Information for London and the South East is obtained from the Environmental Research Group of Kings College London, using data from the London Air Quality Network. This information is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence.

For more information regarding the data or the site in general please contact Joe McAlister by visiting this site.