Air pollution affects asthma

Two thirds of people with asthma tell us poor air quality makes their asthma worse, which puts them at higher risk of an asthma attack.

There is now also strong evidence suggesting that air pollution is linked to the development of asthma. Asthma UK is working not only to ensure people with asthma have information that helps them protect themselves from pollution, but also to try and improve the air quality in the UK.

Why is Asthma UK campaigning for cleaner air?

Air pollution is associated with the development and worsening of asthma in both children and adults.

We also know that:

  • high spells of air pollution create peaks in GP visits and emergency hospitalisations
  • adults and children with asthma feel at a greater risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack during times of high pollution
  • pollution can also make people with asthma more sensitive to their usual asthma triggers (such as house dust mites, pollen, pets, moulds and fungi)
  • children and young adults with asthma are more at risk from the effects of pollution because they have faster breathing rates, and their lungs are still developing.

The UK is currently failing to meet its current targets on limiting air pollution. This means that many pollutants that can affect asthma, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates - from traffic fumes, factories and  industrial sites -  continue to put people with asthma at risk.

What needs to change?

Coordinated measures are required at a local, national and European level to improve air quality. So far, we do not believe that enough has been done. We are partnering with other organisations to persuade the Government to take the lead and develop a new clean air act to be debated in Parliament. Our aim for this is to clean up air pollution hotspots and ensure people with asthma can stop worrying about the air that they breathe and prevent asthma attacks.

We know that people with asthma find traffic pollution a particular problem, discouraging them from exercising or walking in congested areas. The government should consider including measures aimed at reducing exposure to air pollution in these areas, such as increased pedestrianisation and reductions in the vehicles that pollute the most, in a clean air act. 

What is Asthma UK doing to protect people from pollution?

Download our response to the London air quality survey


If you have any questions about this you can email us at