Emissions of air pollutants in the UK, 1970 to 2016

27 February 2018

Article: 52/0805

On 15 February 2018, the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) released a publication detailing UK emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, ammonia and particulate matter.

Air pollution poses the biggest environmental threat to public health. Short-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution can cause a range of effects including exacerbation of asthma, effects on lung function, increases in hospital admissions and mortality. Epidemiological studies have shown that long-term exposure reduces life-expectancy, mainly due to increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory causes and from lung cancer. It is a particular threat to vulnerable groups, including the elderly, to the very young, and to those with existing health issues, like respiratory problems.

The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory contains information on emissions and methodology for a wide range of air pollutants, as well as hosting a number of reports including the devolved administrations’ air quality pollutant inventories.

The estimation methodology is regularly developed to take account of new emission factors and modelling methods. This means the whole time series is revised annually. The figures given in this document and the supporting dataset show the revised estimates.

National statistics on 'Emissions of air pollutants in the UK' are updated annually by the UK Government.