Air Quality

The quality of the air we breathe in Bromley and beyond should be of great concern to everyone.  We may not always see air pollution but it is present everywhere, every day and can have a considerable effect on our health, our planet and all creatures that inhabit our world.

What is air pollution?

Photo by Stephen Sangster

Air pollution is a mixture of particles and gases that have various sources such as road transport, industry, agriculture and domestic fires.  The most concerning pollutants impacting our air quality are particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2):

Particulate matter (PM):  This refers to everything in the air that isn’t gasses – they are tiny particles that are created by both human sources like smoke and dust from transport or domestic fires and natural sources such as pollen and desert dust.  PM is classified according to size – PM2.5 is less than 2.5um (micrometers) across, and is the main type of PM that is monitored.  Since the particles are so small and light they have a higher chance of entering the respiratory and circulatory systems of humans and animals. Based on current evidence PM2.5 is thought to be the air pollutant which has the greatest impact on human health.  Both short and long-term exposure to PM2.5 increases the risk of mortality from lung and heart diseases and is attributable to 29,000 premature deaths every year.

Nitrogen dioxide:  This is a gas that is generated mainly from burning fossil fuels and the main sources are energy generation, transportation and industry.  Exposure to high concentrations of N02 can contribute to respiratory infections and the development of asthma.  Children and the elderly are generally at greater risk from the negative health effects of NO2. There are also wider environmental impacts of NO2 which contributes to climate change and acid rain.

Why is it important for us to improve air quality in Bromley?

Air pollution is a major public health risk, ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity.  It is estimated that the mortality rate in Bromley is 6% from air pollution alone.  We are positioned near a major city and have areas of industry and agriculture nearby so we are not immune to dangerous levels of air pollution.  Government and business have an important role to play in improving air quality but if we can all collectively take action as individuals, families and community groups we can help to reduce pollution and save lives.

What action can I take to improve air quality in Bromley?

Here are the top 3 causes of air pollution in Bromley and the 10 most impactful actions you can take:

NO2** How you can help
Road Transport 30% of local PM2.5 43% of local NO2 Diesel cars the biggest contributor (24%)

Reduce or eliminate car usage by making use of public transport and encouraging active travel; walking or cycling.  

Consider low/ zero emission vehicles including electric. 

Don’t leave your engine idling.

Domestic heating and wood burning 16% of local PM2.5 – mainly wood burning 12% of local NO2

Don’t have bonfires but make use of green recycling services.

Don’t use wood burners but consider green alternatives such as Bioethanol.

Switch to a green energy tariff and look at what you can do to improve energy efficiency in the home.

Commerce and industry activity 15% of local PM2.5 13% of local NO2

Make, re-use and recycle goods wherever possible.

Consider growing your own food at home if you have space or renting an allotment.

Buy locally produced and sourced food and goods wherever possible.

Consider alternatives to air travel.

*Figures for Greater London from the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s College London 2019
**figure obtained from a residential road in Bromley using a Breathe London N02 monitor