General air quality information

Local Air Quality Management (LAQM)

The Environment Act 1995 provides the legal framework for requiring Local Authorities in England and Wales to review the air quality in their area against national objectives including for some pollutants the number of times they must not be exceeded. Where a Local Authority predicts these objectives will be exceeded then they must declare an air quality management area in those locations.

At the centre of the Air Quality Standards (AQS) is the use of national air quality standards to enable air quality to be measured and assessed. These also provide the means by which objectives and timescales for the achievement of objectives can be set. The objectives are detailed in the table below:

Air Quality Objective

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Pollutant Concentration Measured as Date to be achieved By
Benzene 16.25 µg/m3
5.00 µg/m3
Annual mean
Annual mean
31 December 2003
31 December 2010
1,3-Butadiene 2.25 µg/m3 Annual mean 31 December 2003
Carbon monoxide 10.0 mg/m3 8-hour mean 31 December 2003
Lead 0.5 µg/m3
0.25 µg/m3
Annual mean
Annual mean
31 December 2004
31 December 2008
Nitrogen dioxide 200 µg/m3 not to be
exceeded more than
18 times a year
40 µg/m3
1-hour mean

Annual mean
31 December 2005
Particles (PM10)
50 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
35 times a year
40 µg/m3
24-hour mean

Annual mean
31 December 2004
Sulphur dioxide 350 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
24 times a year
125 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
3 times a year
266 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
35 times a year
1-hour mean

24-hour mean

15-minute mean
31 December 2004

Specific objectives relate either to achieving the full standard or, where use has been made of a short averaging period, objectives are sometimes expressed in terms of percentile compliance. The use of percentiles means that a limited number of exceedances of the air quality standard over a particular timescale, usually a year, are permitted. This is to account for unusual meteorological conditions or particular events such as Bonfire Night on 5 November.

In addition, the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2007 have been introduced in the UK. These implement the UK limit values of pollutants in the ambient air and set out the Governments objectives.

Specifically, the 2007 Regulations transpose Directive 2004/107/EC (the Fourth Daughter Directive) relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the ambient air and to replace the Air Quality Limit Values Regulations 2003 in order consolidate all the Daughter Directives and the Air Quality Framework Directive.

Industrial Air Pollution

Emissions from industry are controlled by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regime. IPPC was introduced by the European Community (EC) Directive 96/61/EC on (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control). In England and Wales the Directive is implemented by the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000

IPPC covers a wider range of industrial processes than the previous control Regulations (Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990: LAAPC) and covers a wider scale of environmental impacts. Where LAAPC covered only emissions to land, air and water, IPPC, in addition to the aforementioned emissions, also looks at resource and energy efficiency, accident prevention and minimisation of other pollutants such as noise, heat and vibrations.

IPPC has been implemented to meet the following environmental objectives:

  • Protection of the environment as a whole by preventing or minimising emissions to all media (air, land and water)
  • Encourage reductions in raw materials and energy use and increased recycling and reuse
  • Promote the use of clean technology to reduce pollution at source
  • Encourage innovation, by leaving significant responsibility for developing satisfactory solutions to environmental issues with industrial operators
  • Provide a "one-stop shop" for administering applications for permits to operate; and
  • Simplify and strengthen the role of the Regulators.

The Regulators

The regulations sub-divide industries: Part A1, Part A2 and Part B. Part A1 Permits control activities with a range of environmental impacts and are regulated by the Environment Agency. These activities include:

  • Emissions to air, land and water
  • Energy efficiency
  • Waste reduction
  • Raw materials consumption
  • Noise, vibration and heat
  • Accident prevention

Part A2 Permits control a variety of industrial emission (as in Part A1 but are generally smaller-scale than the A1 processes) and Part B Permits control activities which cause emissions to air. Both Part A2 and Part B Permits are regulated by your Local Council.

The Permitting Process

Not all industrial activity requires an authorisation or permit to operate. Those that do are regulated either by us or the Environment Agency (EA).

Operating a prescribed activity without a permit could lead to a £50,000 fine, so if you believe an activity is being carried out or you wish to carry out an activity that may fall in the PPC Regulations, you should contact Environmental Health to discuss the application process.

Each relevant industry must apply for a Permit to the relevant regulatory Authority. In order to obtain a permit to operate an installation, the operator completes the permit application that demonstrates how they will:

  • Ensure satisfactory environmental management of the installation
  • Prevent or minimise waste production
  • Prevent accidents or minimise their effect
  • Ensure that closure of the installation does not leave residual pollution
  • Promote energy efficiency, waste minimisation and management
  • Ensure compliance with other EU Directives, Community and national environmental quality standards (EQSs) and domestic regulations
  • Apply Best Available Techniques - BAT (see below)

Best Available Techniques (BAT)

In order to gain a Permit, operators must show that they have developed proposals to apply the Best Available Techniques (BAT) to pollution prevention and control and that they address other requirements, relevant to local factors.
BAT is defined by the regulations as follows:

"the most effective and advanced stage in the development of activities and their methods of operation which indicates the practical suitability of particular techniques for providing in principle the basis for emission limit values designed to prevent and, where that is not practicable, generally to reduce emissions and the impact on the environment as a whole".

Industries Requiring Permits

IPPC applies to specified installations, including both existing and new builds, requiring each operator to obtain a permit from the appropriate regulator. The following industrial sectors are required to hold a permit:

  • Energy Production
  • Refineries
  • Production and Processing of Metals
  • Production of Cement and Lime
  • Activities involving Asbestos
  • Glass, Glass Fibre and other Mineral Fibre Manufacture
  • Ceramic Production
  • Organic and Inorganic Chemical Production
  • Fertiliser and Biocide Manufacture
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacture
  • Explosives Manufacture
  • Storage of Bulk Chemicals
  • Incineration
  • Landfill
  • Paper Manufacture
  • Tar and Bitumen Processes
  • Coating, Printing and Textile Activities
  • Dye, Ink and Coating Material Manufacture
  • Timber Activities
  • Rubber Activities
  • Processing of Food
  • Intensive Farming

Permit Operation

As part of the application process, permit operating conditions are agreed with the Regulator and must include:

  • Emission limit values for pollutants
  • Measures for the protection of soil and groundwater and management of waste
  • Requirements for environmental monitoring
  • The operator must also consider the condition of the site at the time of the original application. This will contribute to assessing the need for restoration if the installation closes

The operator of the activity must carry out monitoring to demonstrate compliance with the permit conditions. Regulators will also carry out monitoring and regular inspections, and have a range of enforcement powers.

Operating a prescribed activity without consideration to the requirements of a Permit could lead to enforcement action (including enforcement notices, revocation of Permits and sentencing in a criminal court.

If you believe an industry is operating against the requirements of a Permit, email Health and Environmental Services or call 03450 450 500 to report activities and incidents.

Indoor and Workplace Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution can only be controlled by the householder, but may be improved by increasing ventilation. However, if you are concerned about radon, asbestos or other building materials contact Health and Environmental Services.

Common indoor pollutants and their health effects

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Pollutant Source Effect
Carbon monoxide Incomplete combustion of organic materials. (Carbon containing) Wood, coal, oil, gas. Outdoors: vehicle exhausts, heating appliances. Indoors: smoking, heaters (unvented) Reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood leading to headaches, nausea, vomiting and eventually asphyxiation and death. Long-term exposure to lower concentrations leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
Asbestos Building material, wall cladding, insulation, brake linings. Exposure usually indoors during building work and car maintenance Scarring of the lung and increased risk of lung, chest and abdominal cancer
Volatile Organic Compounds
(for example, Formaldehyde)
Paints, varnishes, glues and preservatives used in wood products. Foam insulation, exposure indoors during decoration or construction and also household products (for example, aerosols, paints and cleaning products) Breathing difficulties, eye and skin irritation, nausea, dizziness and risk of cancer
Radon Rocks contain naturally occurring radioactive material emit Radon gas Increased risk of lung cancer
Cigarette Smoke:
Nicotine, tar, formaldehyde, oxides
of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide
Smoking Eye, throat and lung irritation. Increased liability to respiratory illness. Increased risk of lung cancer. Non-smokers breathing in others' smoke are also at risk
Micro-organisms and allergens Biological contaminants, moulds, spores, viruses and bacteria Pneumonia-like respiratory illnesses, allergic reactions


One hundred properties within the National Grid square TL7035 are being monitored for indoor concentrations of radon. This action is in response to the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) mapping estimate that 1-3% of houses in this 5 kilometre square have levels of radon above the Government action level of 200Bgm -3. Results are expected later this year. Further information may be obtained from ourselves or the NRPB, Chilton, Didcot, Oxfordshire CX1 10RQ. Call 0800 614 529 or e-mail. Please address your correspondence Radon Survey.

Further information on the work of the NRPB can be found at their website.

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