Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about air pollution in Hillingdon

Click on a question below to jump to further information:

How clean is my air?

In Hillingdon we have identified one pollutant that does not meet the Government's Air Quality Strategy Objectives. The pollutant is nitrogen dioxide.

Check out the map showing areas where levels fail the Government objectives:


What are the effects of poor air quality?

There is growing evidence that high levels of air pollution can cause damage to the airways and lungs, cause heart attacks, and lead to premature death for people who are already ill. Air pollution affects many people - government research has shown that every year, between 14,000 and 24,000 people may be admitted to hospital as a result of air pollution, and that between 12,000 and 24,000 vulnerable people (such as those who are already ill) may die prematurely. Air pollution can also damage trees and plants, buildings, and contribute to global warming.

Where can I find out further information on what the Council has been doing to assess Air Quality in Hillingdon?

The Council has a duty under the Environment Act to assess the air Quality within its area. The first Review and assessment process showed exceedances of the pollutants Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter (PM10.) We found that there was widespread exposure to levels exceeding the Governments objectives for annual mean Nitrogen Dioxide as predicted for the year 2005. Further assessment has now concluded that PM10 particulate matter concentrations will in fact meet the objectvies. after all. This has led the Council to declare an air quality management area (AQMA) on the basis of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide, we are continuing to assess the levels of particulate matter. (Check out the Hillingdon Air Quality Management Area map.)

The report detailing the exceedances which lead to the declaration of the AQMA is available upon request from the Environmental Protection Unit.

What happens after the declaration of an AQMA?

Firstly the Council have to review the air quality within the AQMA taking into account any new information that has come to light since the original declaration. On the basis of this latest review we then identify and apportion the pollution to sources contributing toward the problem.

Secondly the Council must develop an Air Quality Action Plan to bring about the desired improvements. These action plans will need to be developed in full consultation with residents and businesses of the borough but may include 'Walk to School' initiatives, roadside car emissions testing, safer cycling and walking plans and low emission zones.

These reports will be available on this web site.

Does Hillingdon carry out any air quality monitoring?

There is one Government-owned air quality continuous monitoring station, in West Drayton. This monitors for nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Hillingdon Council own and operate another two continuous air quality monitoring stations, one in Hillingdon and another in South Ruislip. In addition to the continuous monitoring data Hillingdon also monitors for nitrogen dioxide via the use of passive diffusion tubes. These are placed at sites around the borough on a monthly basis. Results from these show long term trends in nitrogen dioxide levels as opposed to daily averages. Results from all these monitors are available from the air quality data section of this web site.

What are the current air pollution levels like in Hillingdon ?

Up-to date pollution concentrations are reported in the air quality data section of this web site. The latest measurements from the Hillingdon automatic monitoring sites are summarised in graphical form based on the highest pollutant measured at each site. The air pollution is categorised as LOW, MODERATE, HIGH or VERY HIGH by comparison with the National Air Pollution Index and Banding System.

You can also view a graph of air quality data over the last week at each of the monitoring sites.

Air quality monitoring data for Heathrow Airport and other surrounding local authorities can be found on the Heathrow Airwatch web site. For the whole of London you can look on the London Air Quality Network web site, or if you're interested in elsewhere across the UK then go to the Defra UK-AIR website.

How can I contribute?

All ideas on how we can improve our environment and reduce pollutant emissions are welcome. There are many things that you and your family can do to help reduce pollution levels.

  • Try to use your car less often - walk, cycle or use public transport.
  • Cycling or walking is healthier for both the environment, and for you.
  • Ask your employer, school or college about developing a green travel plan.
  • Try not to use your car for short trips because a cold engine produces much more pollution.
  • Have your car serviced regularly so that it runs efficiently and does not pollute the air so much. If you have a diesel car, try to use a cleaner fuel such as 'city diesel' as this produces less smoke than normal diesel fuel.
  • Do not drive your car when there are warnings of high air pollution. You will normally receive pollution warnings on your local regional news and weather forecast.
  • Don't light a bonfire when pollution levels are high.

You can report the details of smoky lorries, buses, coaches and taxis to the Vehicle Inspectorate by phoning:

The 'Smoky Vehicle Hotline' 020 8665 0885.

How does air quality monitoring fit in with sustainable development policies?

Most societies want to achieve economic development to achieve higher standards of living, now and for future generations, whilst also seeking to protect and enhance their environment. "Sustainable development" tries to reconcile these two objectives. It is widely defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Sustainable development represents a comprehensive approach to development, addressing the balance between competing social and economic forces, and the need to protect the natural systems upon which life depends. Needless to say, the scope for potential guidance on sustainable development is enormous including guidance on:

  • Protecting biodiversity, landscape character, archaeological and historical features, and amenity;
  • Minimising consumption of resources and encouraging recycling;
  • Transportation planning;
  • Promoting regeneration, employment, and economic development; and
  • Facilitating social inclusion, affordable housing, community health, and design for crime prevention.

Hillingdon Borough Council has already addressed some of these impacts via policies in its Unitary Development Plan, and also in accompanying Supplementary planning Guidance (SPG) documents on air quality, noise, environmental impacts etc. in addition, an SPG on Sustainable Design and Construction is currently under development.

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