The air pollution figure shows the 'Daily Air Quality Index', which is dependent on pollutant concentrations averaged over specified periods. These averaging periods were specifically selected by the 'Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants' (COMEAP) on the basis of epidemiology studies concerning the short-term impacts of air pollution. With these specifications the air quality index is inherently a 'daily' index and it is not possible to display values representing shorter time periods (for example 3 hourly) without distorting the intended meaning of the index.
The Met Office air pollution forecast is generated from a regional model working on a 12km grid resolution, our forecast does not represent the very localised increases in pollution that you might find close to roads or in urban centres. The forecast represents the background and regional air quality away from these strong sources of pollution. Keep checking the latest forecasts on the Defra UK Air website for up to date information.
The daily air quality index comes in three parts and includes additional advice for susceptible individuals, alongside advice for the general population:
- Instructions on how the index should be used
- The short-term health effects of air pollution and action that can be taken to reduce impacts
- Health advice linked to each band to accompany the air quality index
These are detailed below:
How to use the Daily Air Quality Index
Step 1: Determine whether you (or your children) are likely to be at-risk from air pollution. Information on groups who may be affected can be found in the Additional information on the effects of air pollution section. Your doctor may also be able to give you advice.
Step 2: If you may be at-risk, and are planning strenuous activity outdoors, check the air pollution forecast.
Step 3: Use the health messages corresponding to the highest forecast level of pollution as a guide.
Additional information on the short-term effects of air pollution
The daily air quality index (DAQI) has been developed to provide advice on expected levels of air pollution. In addition, information on the short-term effects on health that might be expected to occur at the different bands of the index (Low, Moderate, High, Very High) is provided. It is possible that very sensitive individuals may experience health effects even on Low air pollution days. This advice applies to anyone experiencing symptoms.
Short-term effects of air pollution on health
Air pollution has a range of effects on health. However, air pollution in the UK does not rise to levels at which people need to make major changes to their habits to avoid exposure; nobody need fear going outdoors.
Adults or children with lung or heart conditions: It is known that, when levels of air pollutants rise, adults suffering from heart conditions, and adults and children with lung conditions, are at increased risk of becoming ill and needing treatment. Only a minority of those who suffer from these conditions are likely to be affected and it is not possible to predict in advance who will be affected. Some people are aware that air pollution affects their health: adults and children with asthma may notice that they need to increase their use of inhaled reliever medication on days when levels of air pollution are higher than average.
Older people are more likely to suffer from heart and lung conditions than young people and so it makes good sense for them to be aware of current air pollution conditions.
The general population: At very high levels of air pollution, some people may experience a sore or dry throat, sore eyes or, in some cases, a tickly cough even in healthy individuals.
Children need not be kept from school or prevented from taking part in games. Children with asthma may notice that they need to increase their use of reliever medications on days when levels of air pollution are higher than average.
Action that can be taken
When levels of air pollution increase it would be sensible for those who have noticed that they are affected to limit their exposure to air pollutants. This does not mean staying indoors, but reducing levels of exercise outdoors would be reasonable.
Older people and those with heart and lung conditions might avoid exertion on High pollution days.
Adults and children with asthma should check that they are taking their medication as advised by their health practitioner and may notice that they need to increase their use of inhaled reliever medication.
Adults with heart and circulatory conditions should not modify their treatment schedules on the basis of advice provided by the air quality index: such modification should only be made on a health practitioner's advice.
Some athletes, even if they are not asthmatic, may notice that they find their performance less good than expected when levels of a certain air pollutant (ground level ozone) are High, and they may notice that they find deep breathing causes some discomfort in the chest: This might be expected in summer on days when ground level ozone levels are raised. This does not mean that they are in danger but it would be sensible for them to limit their activities on such days.
Health advice to accompany the Daily Air Quality Index
* 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 Additional information on the effects of air pollution section.
Daily Air Quality Index
The bandings for the Daily Air Quality Index are detailed in the table below:
For more information about the Daily Air Quality Index please take a look at the Air quality forecast to the Met Office Air Quality Forecast.