Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Improving air quality

More air related guidance in alphabetical order

Additional resources


Video Case Study: How to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Your Business

Air emissions from manufacturing chemicals can contain a wide range of harmful substances which can have negative effects on the environment and human health.

>> Read our guidance on improving air quality at chemical businesses

Air inside your hairdressing business can contain

  • odours and chemicals from hair dyes and treatments
  • dust and vapours from nail care treatment
  • airborne fine hair.

>> Read our guidance on air pollution from hair and beauty salons.


Businesses that manufacture, assemble or service machinery or electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) may emit dust, fumes and gases which cause air pollution.

>> Read our guidance on air quality for machinery, electrical and mechanical equipment

Animal husbandry is the largest source of ammonia releases to air in the UK.

>> Read our guidance on ammonia emissions from slurry and manure

If your business has air-conditioned offices or carries out a manufacturing process that uses water as a coolant, it may have a cooling tower.

>> Read our guidance on evaporative cooling towers



Fume hoods or fume cupboards are used to prevent people working in laboratories being exposed to harmful or unpleasant gases and dust particles.

>> Read our guidance on the use of fume hoods in laboratories

The most harmful environmental impacts from furnaces are from emissions of particulates (dust) and fumes.

What you must do


Check with your environmental regulator or local council to see if you need a permit for your furnace. You may need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit.

If you have a permit, you must comply with its conditions. Your permit may contain conditions relating to your levels of noise, vibration, odour and dust and smoke emissions.

Contact your environmental regulator

Pollution prevention and control permits

Odour and nuisance

You must make sure that your business does not cause a nuisance to your neighbours or the local community. Nuisances include smoke, dust, odour, noise and vibration. Anyone affected by a nuisance can take legal action against you or your business, or complain to your local council.

If your business causes a nuisance, or could cause or repeat a nuisance, you can be issued with an abatement notice. Your local council's environmental health department or the courts can issue abatement notices. You can be fined if you do not comply with an abatement notice.

An abatement notice can:

  • stop or impose restrictions on your operations
  • require you to carry out works or take other steps to restrict or remove the nuisance.

For further information see our guidance on Noise, odour and other nuisances.

Installing a furnace

Your local council must approve your plans before you use any new furnace, or make changes to an existing furnace.

If you have local council consent for your installation, you still cannot emit dark smoke. All new furnace installations must be able to run continuously without emitting smoke. In Scotland furnaces must be fitted with grit and dust arrestment plant. You can apply for an exemption from this requirement, but only if your installation will not cause emissions that could damage health or cause a nuisance.

Your local council regulates chimney height if your furnace fuel consumption exceeds 45.4kg of solid fuel or 366.4kW of liquid or gas fuel per hour. Your chimney must be high enough to prevent smoke, grit, dust, gas and fume emissions from damaging health or causing a nuisance.

Preventing air pollution

Contact your local council

Sulphur content of fuels

You must not use gas oil with a sulphur content exceeding 0.1% by mass.

You must not use heavy fuel oil with a sulphur content exceeding 1% by mass. This is particularly relevant if you have stocks of stand-by fuel that remain unchanged for considerable periods of time. If you operate pre-1987 combustion plant you can apply for a 'sulphur content of liquid fuels' permit from SEPA in Scotland or from the Industrial and Radiochemical Inspectorate in Northern Ireland.

Contact your local council

Contact your environmental regulator


If you prepare material by incineration, or you use waste oil or recovered fuel oil to fire your furnace, check if the Waste Incineration Directive will affect your operations.

Waste incineration

Radioactive sources

Some level-detection and smoke detection devices on furnaces use radioactive sources. If your furnace uses a radioactive source, you must have a certificate of registration or authorisation (Northern Ireland or an authorisation (Scotland) from your environmental regulator.

Managing Radioactive substances

Good practice

Using your furnaces efficiently

  • Consider whether you could use more environmentally friendly furnace fuel.
  • Make sure you are using the most efficient furnace for your process. For example, an electric induction furnace emits one tenth of the particulate emissions of a cupola furnace.
  • Follow the start-up procedures recommended by the furnace manufacturer. Allow sufficient time when lighting up your furnace from cold. This will enable your furnace to run more efficiently and avoid unnecessary emissions and fuel use.
  • Service your extraction systems regularly and repair defects or damage promptly. This will ensure you keep emissions to a minimum and you operate your furnace efficiently.
  • Put materials into batches and use programmed heating controls in order to improve energy efficiency.

Furnace charge material

  • Pelletise fine feed materials before you introduce them to smelting or melting furnaces. This will reduce dust emissions.
  • Only melt material which is compatible with your furnace. This will help your furnace to operate efficiently.
  • Maximise the metallic content of the charge material. This will minimise the amount of solid waste material produced and reduce energy use.
  • Only melt clean scrap in your furnace, unless you have registered an exemption with your environmental regulator that allows you to use contaminated scrap.

Waste exemptions for metals production and processing businesses

Dust and fumes

  • Use hooding and bag filters to capture fumes and dust from furnaces. This is particularly important where you charge the furnace, and where you remove molten metal, dross and slag.
  • Minimise transfers of molten metal to reduce emissions. Cover transfer points wherever possible to keep air away from molten metal.
  • Maintain strict temperature control when alloying. This prevents metal fuming.
  • Use automated burner controls to reduce polluting emissions.
  • Remove as much lubricating emulsion as possible before annealing to reduce polluting emissions to air.

Replacing furnaces

  • Replace oil-fired burners with gas or electric alternatives when a furnace reaches the end of its life. This will help you to reduce emissions.
  • Design new plant to reduce and control emissions.

Recovering materials and heat

  • You may be able to recover metals and salts from some slags. This will reduce the amount of waste you produce.
  • You may be able to use steel slag as a secondary aggregate, for example roadstone, if the metal content is not too high. However, steel slag is considered to be a waste so you must comply with appropriate waste regulations, for example you need to transport it using a waste carrier and with a waste transfer note. Contact trade associations such as the British Aggregates Association or the Mineral Products Association for further information on using slag.

British Aggregates Association

Mineral Products Association

  • Blast furnace slag is considered separately to steel slag, and is regarded as a by-product.
  • Use recuperative or regenerative burners to recover heat from exhaust gases.
  • Reduce fuel use by recovering waste heat to use in other parts of your operation.

Your air-conditioning system and refrigeration equipment, including refrigerators used in kitchens and catering facilities or chilled vending machines, may contain hazardous substances, such as ozone depleting substances (ODS) and fluorinated gases (F-gases).

ODS have been banned across the EU but there is a possibility that they remain in some older systems. If released, these chemicals damage the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.  F-gases are a group of chemicals that can make a significant contribution to global warming, they are very potent greenhouse gases.

Smaller scale air-conditioning units and some heat pumps also contain refrigerants.

This guideline includes information on:

  • Fluorinated gases in refrigeration equipment
  • Ozone depleting substances in refrigeration equipment
  • Air conditioning
  • Other pollutants in refrigeration equipment
  • How to avoid causing a nuisance
  • Energy efficiency of refrigeration equipment
  • New equipment and tax breaks
  • Storing chemicals

Read our guidance on Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Organic solvents are used in degreasing, dying, coating and finishing. They are also present in many adhesives.

>> Read our guidance on the use of solvents and adhesives in leather finishing

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