What is Sulphur Dioxide?

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is colourless gas with a strong odour which is produced when a material, or fuel, containing sulphur is burned. In the UK the major contributors are coal and oil burning by industry such as power stations and refineries.

Sulphur dioxide levels in this country have dropped considerably over recent years due to cleaner power stations, a decreased use of coal and cleaner petrol and diesel fuel. Sulphur dioxide pollution episodes can occur where there is widespread domestic use of coal or in the vicinity of coal- or oil-fired power stations. Short-term exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide may cause coughing, tightening of the chest and narrowing of the airways. People with asthma are more sensitive to sulphur dioxide than healthy individuals.

Although concentrations in this country present a low direct risk to human health, it can cause pollution in other ways, mainly by contributing to the formation of particles.

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