Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Causes and effects of air pollution

Causes and effects of air pollution

 

There are two main types of air pollution:

  • fumes - which can include vapours, gases, smoke and odours
  • dust - dry particles

These can be produced in a number of different ways. Manufacturing processes, particularly those that use chemicals and machinery, can cause air pollution. Less obviously 'dirty' processes, such as cleaning and packaging goods, can also produce harmful emissions.

 

Businesses particularly at risk of causing air pollution

Most types of business can cause air pollution if they are not run properly. Some businesses are particularly at risk of creating air pollution, including:

  • manufacturers
  • farmers
  • construction, building and demolition trades
  • vehicle repairers
  • welders
  • mines and quarries
  • printers
  • hauliers and other transport businesses
  • waste management businesses
  • dry cleaners
  • laboratories

Sources of air pollution from business premises include:

  • emissions from burning fuels in furnaces and boilers
  • burning material in the open
  • dust and fumes from poor waste storage and ventilation systems
  • ozone (an air pollutant which can be harmful to human health) from office equipment such as copiers and laser printers
  • exhaust fumes and dust from distribution and delivery vehicles

 

Effects of air pollution on the environment and human health

Air pollution impacts seriously on the environment in a number of ways. Emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to climate change and ozone-depleting substances create larger holes in the ozone layer. This type of pollution also increases the acidity of rain, which causes damage to buildings, land, fresh water and sea water, wildlife and plants.

There are many associated risks to human health from air pollution. Those who are exposed to poor air quality can face an increased risk of developing or exacerbating a range of illnesses including lung and breathing problems, skin conditions, cancer and organ damage.

 

Further information

 Environmental Protection UK: Air pollution sources

 UK Air - DEFRA air information resource: Air quality forecasts and latest measured air quality

 DAERA NI: Air quality monitoring, policy and legislation

 Northern Ireland Air: Air quality forecasts and latest measured air quality

 Scottish Government: Pollutant information

 Air Quality in Scotland: Air pollution levels and forecasts

 Scotland’s Environment Web - Air

 

In this guideline

Causes and effects of air pollution

Business benefits of improving air quality

What you must do to prevent air pollution

Prevent dark smoke

Boilers and furnaces: environmental authorisations

Boilers and furnaces - chimney height requirements

Burning waste controls

Smoke control areas

Protecting neighbours from air pollution

Measuring and monitoring to reduce air pollution

Air pollution environmental legislation

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