Fifteen million people in the United Kingdom live in areas where the levels of PM 2.5 (a toxic particle coming from vehicle emissions, among other sources) actually surpasses the guidelines set by the World Health Foundation, according to one study by the British Heart Foundation. While breathing in polluted air has been known to have the powerful potential to negatively affect human health, the rise in poor air quality has come to a point where action on the matter is well overdue. From the rising risks of the air in the UK to how the government is planning to handle the matter, here’s what you need to know.

The rising dangers of air pollution

Air pollution has been an ongoing concern for both the United Kingdom and the world for some time now, especially since poor air quality is known to cause health complications and negatively contribute to climate change. Common forms of air pollutants include those from motor vehicles, factories, and other sources that negatively affect the air quality by releasing pollutants into it — in fact, even something as simple as cigarette smoking can negatively impact the air we breathe.<

When it comes to health complications, the effects of breathing in pollutants can be devastating. In fact, it’s estimated that a shocking 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide are linked to outdoor air pollution, from conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer, and even respiratory infections in children. With both long and short-term exposure to air pollution having the potential to cause anything from aggravated asthma to reduced lung function, it’s important that something be done — as the issue doesn’t seem to be on the decline anytime soon.

A loss in wages

In addition to the damaging health effects that poor air quality can bring, it’s important to take note that the economy is suffering because of it as well. With so many people getting sick themselves, or having to take time off to care for their sick children due to health issues related to air pollution, three million working days are lost each year — which, in turn, was estimated to cost Britain around £600m a year.

Not only does this result in a major loss of productivity, but it also causes employees to lose out on wages due to not being present at work — proving this to be a major issue for both companies and their employees. However, according to one analysis by the CBI, reducing air pollution in order to meet the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) could actually uplift the economy by a substantial amount — around £1.6b a year — not to mention the fact that doing so could also allow workers to recover those lost wages by cutting down on absences.

The plan for a better future

When searching for a solution to the UK’s air pollution problems, there is a lot that could be done in addition to plans that are already in place. For instance, introducing a smoking ban is a major step, but can be a start in improving air quality across the nation in a simple way. The government could also introduce additional legislation that could implement the use of air pollution control equipment at companies throughout the country, as well as a maintenance plan to keep it functional at all times — in fact, Polsys Services notes that custom Rapid Response Agreements can be a step in the right direction when it comes to dramatically boosting system reliability and production uptime.

When compared to most other European nations, the UK is considered to be going above and beyond when it comes to having a plan, known as the Clean Air Strategy. In fact, the UK is actually the first to adopt air quality goals that are based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations — proving just how seriously they’re taking it. With one goal being to significantly reduce the number of those living in areas where PM surpasses the guidelines by the year 2025, there are a number of additional plans for lessening air pollution throughout the nation as well. For instance, there is a plan to end the sale of conventional new petrol and diesel cars/vans from the year 2040, as well as a plan to introduce legislation that will prohibit the sale of some polluting fuels, to name a few.

Air pollution driven by manmade factors — such as motor vehicles — has been a rising issue in the UK for a long time. With the effects that poor air quality has on the climate as well as human health, the government has major plans to try and cut down on the damage.