What do the air quality bands mean?

In the UK, most air pollution information services use the index and banding system approved by the Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP). This index is designed to advise about short term health effects only. Because of this, it is possible for a pollutant at a site to have a low short term index every day and yet fail an air quality standard which is based on long term health effects.

The index has four bands indicating the degree of air pollution and the health risk. These are calcualted for each pollutant and then the highest band is used to indicate overal air pollution. Sometimes air pollution can be worse in the suburbs than in locations close to roads. This is mainly due to differences in ozone concentrations. Although traffic pollution contributes to ozone formation, fresh vehicle exhaust reacts to consume ozone locally.

To use the index follow the following three steps:

  1. Step 1. Determine whether you (or your children) are likely to be at-risk from air pollution. Information on groups who may be affected is on the ‘Additional information on the effects of air pollution’ page. Your doctor may also be able to give you advice.
  2. Step 2. If you may be at-risk, and are planning strenuous activity outdoors, check the air pollution forecast.
  3. Step 3. Use the health messages corresponding to the highest forecast level of pollution as a guide.

Follow Us
Our newsletter
Privacy Notice Summary:
  • Who this is for: You must be at least 13 years old to use this service.
  • What we collect: We store your email address
  • Who we share it with: We use "Campaign Monitor" to store it, and do not share it with anyone else.
  • More Info: You can see our full privacy notice here

AirMail newsletter

The latest news and research from ERG: View the archive