Air quality banding

Air quality targets

To provide information about air pollution that is more readily understood a simple index and banding system has been devised with the approval of Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP), and which combines both an indication of pollution levels and possible health effects. Air pollution levels are indicated by a 1-10 scale, and divided into 4 bands:

  • 1-3 (Low)
  • 4-6 (Moderate)
  • 7-9 (High)
  • 10 (Very High)

The overall air pollution index for a site or region is calculated from the highest concentration of five pollutants – nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulates (PM10). The threshold between ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ approximates to the national air quality standard for that pollutant.

What the bands mean for your health

Air Pollution Banding Value Accompanying health messages for at-risk individuals* Accompanying health messages for the general population
Low 1-3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities. Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
Moderate 4-6 Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors. Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
High 7-9 Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion. Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.
Very High 10 Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.
Lungs

*Adults and children with heart or lung problems are at greater risk of symptoms. Follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition. It is possible that very sensitive individuals may experience health effects even on low air pollution days. Anyone experiencing symptoms should follow the guidance provided in the table above.