Air quality

What is air quality

Air quality is the degree to which the air in a particular area is pollution-free. Poor air quality has a massive impact on everyone’s lives, public health, the economy and the environment.

The air pollution sources emit a wide range of pollutants classified under different categories that include Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM2.5), Hydrocarbons (HC) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), Lead, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and Smog.

Road transport is the greatest source of emissions which create harmful NO2 emissions.

We are committed to cutting air pollution and therefore helping the lives of our residents, road users and local businesses.

The South Essex region is facing unprecedented growth in terms of housing (40,000 new houses) and employment (70,000 new jobs), which has key implications for travel and air quality, with demand for additional trips forecast to increase by up to 30% by 2037. This growth is a positive for the region, however we cannot keep building new roads, this is unsustainable and therefore requires a new solution.

That is why we are currently monitoring air quality in South Essex as part of an ongoing study which will inform future efforts to cut air pollution.


Click on your local authority to see what they are doing about air quality.

Health impacts

Short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a wide range of adverse health effects including exacerbation of asthma, effects on lung function, increases in hospital admissions and mortality.

Air pollution is damaging to the health of all of us but particularly young children and those with heart and lung problems.

An hour long bike ride burns 500 calories - that’s the equivalent of five bags of crisps.

Economic impacts

Air pollution has social costs and threatens economic growth. It also impacts upon people of working age which can have economic effects, for instance, if staff have to take days off work. The annual cost to the UK of air pollution is in the region of £20 billion.

Can your business help promote sustainable travel methods for your staff? 

Inspire people, businesses and other employers to act by sharing your success.

Environmental impacts

Air pollution is also responsible for significant damage to the natural environment. NO2 contributes to pollution of soil and watercourses, which impacts on animal and plant life as well as biodiversity. It also contributes to local ozone production, which has public health impacts and damages agricultural crops, forests and plants.

What is going on in Essex?

Clean Air Day - On the longest day of the year, Clean Air Day is a day committed to simple things everyone can do to improve air quality and look after our own and other people’s health.


Car drivers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist


Thursday, 21 June

 with your efforts to improve air quality on social media with the hashtag #CleanAirEssex


Make just one change to improve your air quality today.

Make cycling or walking a natural choice for shorter journeys – To school, college, work or leisure trips.

Catch the Bus Week - Catch the Bus Week is a nationwide campaign aimed at driving awareness of the benefits of taking the bus. 

As part of Catch the Bus Week Arriva are: 

  • giving away 1,000 free day tickets everyday across the UK on their m-tickets app
  • holding prize draws for a variety of tickets from day tickets up to an annual pass.

A full single-decker bus can take up to 40 cars off our roads.

Simple steps to improve your air quality



Swap a short car journey for a walk instead.

Utilise the Essex footpaths and public rights of way for a countryside walk.

Plan your route away from main roads to avoid the worst areas of poor air quality.  


Cycle to work schemes/salary sacrifice schemes 

Essex Cycling strategy

Cycling Routes and Maps  

Cycling training for all ages 

Public Transport  

Use a different mode of transport for short journeys

Leave the car at home and take the train for a day out to London or Southend

Find your route – find your closest stop -

Plan a trip using South Essex’s well connected trains into London or to Southend.

Other ideas

Electric Vehicles (EV) – we are looking into the possibility of installing EV charging points in Basildon and Rochford, making it easier and more convenient to own an electric vehicle.

Cycling routes – we are developing plans for a cycling route in Basildon.

Idling – switch off your vehicle while in standstill, at the school gates, in long traffic queues and while picking up or dropping off. This alone can make a massive difference to air quality in the area.

Car shares – Why take two cars if you can take one, find out if you can participate in Essex car shares.

How can you help us tackle air pollution?

Essex County Council is working in partnership with Basildon Borough Council and Rochford District Council to look into possible solutions to alleviate air pollution in the area from traffic.

We conducted a survey from 21st June to 22nd August 2018 and are now evaluating the results.