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Air quality FAQs

What is local air quality management (LAQM)?

Under The Environment Act 1995 all councils must monitor air quality in their area against national objectives and report the results to the Government. Where air quality is assessed as likely to fail to meet the objectives set out in the National Air Quality Strategy, the local authority has to declare an Air Quality Management Area.

What kind of air pollution do councils monitor?

There are several pollutants of concern, the most common kind of air pollution that councils monitor is nitrogen dioxide, followed by particulate matter. There is little need to monitor other pollutants as levels are usually very low.

Where does nitrogen dioxide come from?

The biggest source of nitrogen dioxide is the exhaust from cars and lorries, but it also comes from power stations.

Where is monitoring carried out?

We mostly monitor alongside busy roads or on narrow congested streets where air pollution is likely to be worse. We also monitor at several 'background' locations for example away from busy roads or in rural areas.

What happens if air pollution is higher than the national objectives?

The council has to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) - an area where action is needed to manage air pollution and prevent deterioration.

What happens in an AQMA?

Councils have to take steps to improve air quality in an AQMA. We aim to produce an action plan within 18 months of the AQMA being declared. Many actions required to reduce pollution levels are beyond the direct control of the council and will therefore work with other organisations such as Cumbria County Council and the Highways Authority to work towards the necessary controls. We will also monitor the effectiveness of the measures we take to improve the air quality in the AQMA.

Are there any other AQMAs in the UK?

Yes, there are more than 500 AQMAs in the UK. Eden is proposing three - two in Penrith and one in Eamont Bridge.

Will the value of my property be affected if it's in the AQMA?

There is no evidence that being in an AQMA affects property values. The AQMA is a positive step, as it means action is being taken to improve air quality. Declaring an AQMA is not an optional process for a Council.

How might poor air quality affect my health?

If your health is good, you are unlikely to have any serious short-term effects. However, people with lung diseases or heart conditions are more likely to be affected as they have lower resistance to infections such as influenza.

Where can I get further health information?

You can find out more from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) pages on air quality and public health.

Are exhaust emissions from cars and lorries getting worse?

Exhaust emissions from traffic in the UK are generally falling and should continue to fall as newer vehicles with tighter emission standards replace older vehicles that pollute more. Levels in the UK have fallen by almost 60% in the last 15 years due to a reduction in pollution from power stations and road traffic.