Breathe Better in Birmingham 

Pollution – Causes and Effects

Poor air quality in Birmingham affects us all, with up to 900 deaths per year, in Birmingham alone, linked to man-made air pollution. The World Health Organisation and the UK Government recognize air pollution as our largest environmental health risk.

Causes of Air Pollution

Birmingham’s air pollution is mainly caused by motorized transportation (cars, buses, taxis, vans, lorries) and also by industry, agriculture, heating, and fires. The two main pollutants are NOx and Particulate Matter (PM).

  • NOx: A gas made of Nitrogen Oxide (NO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), mostly from burning fuels, with transport accounting for 80% of emissions.
  • Particulate Matter (PM): Tiny particles from sources like smoke, exhaust fumes, and dust from brake pads. PM10, PM2.5, and PM0.1 refer to the size of these particles, with smaller particles being more harmful as they can enter the bloodstream.


25% of all car journeys made in Birmingham are less than a mile… If everyone who can chose to walk or cycle short journeys it would significantly improve the quality of the air which everyone in our city breathes.  

Thinking about the way you move around your neighbourhood and choosing to travel by bike or foot when you can enables you to spend more time outside, discover nature on your doorstep and provides opportunities to get more exercise. You can see your neighbourhood differently, get to know your community, make meaningful connections with people and understand the environment you live in. This is better for your health and wellbeing as well as the planet and something we can all benefit from. 

Actions You Can Take

Get Outside: Use our 69wards walking and cycling friendly routes. Explore alone, with family or friends, or join our events.

Spend Time in Nature: Plant trees or help at local community orchards like those by Fruit and Nut Village.

Drive Less: Use bikes, scooters, or public transport. Shop in stores within walking distance of your home, or try out local farmers markets. Car share and forward planning can also significantly reduce your impact and lower the number of cars on the roads, without changing your routines. Setting small goals, such as walking to the shop once a week, would be more achievable than going ‘cold-turkey’. You may find you love leaving your car behind!

Avoid Idling: Turn off your engine when stationary, and its safe to do so. Tips, here.

Engage with your Community: Talk to others about air pollution and write to your councillor about improving local policies. There are templates available online, or you can email us at [email protected] for some guidance.

Use your Voice: This Clean Air Day (Thursday 20th June 2024) use your voice to call on our next government to: *Make walking, wheeling and cycling safer. *Ensure that everyone can access reliable, affordable and efficient public transport. Sign the petition here.

Find out more about Clean Air and what we can all do to help ourselves and others Breathe Better HERE.

Clean Air Day Celebration – Walking & Cycling Event 
Celebrate Volunteer Week with us

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