Ammonia emissions have only fallen by 17 per cent in the past 40 years. Photo: © Brian Clifford /

UK air is cleaner but challenges remain

Policies to improve air quality in the UK over the past 40 years have led to significant reductions in pollution and associated mortality rates, a new study has found.

Research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology charted the levels of emissions of a variety of air pollutants in the UK between 1970 and 2010 – a period in which a raft of national and European legislation was introduced to tackle pollution. They found that over the 40-year period, total annual emissions of PM2.5, NOx, SO2 and NMVOCs in the UK all reduced substantially – by between 58 and 93 per cent. However, emissions of ammonia (NH3) fell only by 17 per cent, and have even increased slightly in recent years.

As a result of emission reductions, mortality rates attributed to PM2.5 and NO2 (pollutants that increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases) declined by 56 and 44 per cent, respectively, in the UK over the 40-year period.

However, scientists involved in the research stress that tackling air pollution in the UK remains an ongoing challenge. NO2 concentrations are still often above legal limits in many urban areas and levels of ammonia emissions are increasing.

Edward Carnell of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, lead author of the study, said: “Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of a series of policies at UK and European level since 1970 and this research supports policy-makers’ efforts to continue implementing much-needed measures to further improve air quality.”

Source: ScienceDaily, 26 June 1019. Link:


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