Birmingham has a rich history going back years to the industrial revolution era. Pollution levels would have been elevated during that time due to the large amounts of coal to power industrial plants. However, this era has passed and many of these historical factories are no longer around, nonetheless readings have shown pollution still seems to be a big part of day-to-day life in Birmingham when compared to other cities in England. 

Despite slight improvements over the years, Birmingham’s air pollution levels are relatively high. The main source of air pollution in the city is from motorised transport – but other sources include: industry, heating and fires.

The average household now owns 2, regularly used. Between the year 2000 (27.2 million cars) and the year 2023 (33.48 million cars) there had been an increase of 6.28 million cars.

Pollutants include, but are not limited to:
– Sulphur Dioxide – from the burning of fossil fuels and vehicle emissions
– Nitrogen Oxides (N0 and N02) – from vehicle emissions
– Pm10 and Pm2.5 particles – from vehicle emissions
– Benzine – From vehicle emissions and industrial processes
– 1,3 Butadiene – from industrial processes, vehicle emissions and cigarette smoke
– Carbon Monoxide – From the burning of fossil fuels
– Metallic pollutants – including Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead and Mercury, from vehicle emissions and incinerators 

The main pollutants in Birmingham are nitrogen oxide/nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The oxides of nitrogen levels are currently illegal in some locations within the city and there is no safe level of particulate matter (PM).

PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter (with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less) – these fine pollutants are extremely small, making them dangerous when inhaled. The World Health Organisation states that PM2.5 readings should range between 0 to 10 µg/m³ for healthy air quality. The 2023 Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR) of the Birmingham City Council have shown poor air quality in Birmingham, with 2020’s reading of 8 µg/m³ and 2021’s reading of 9 µg/m³. 2022’s annual reading has shown no improvement and remains at the higher end of the scale at 9 µg/m³.

The council’s own figures show that air pollution is responsible for 900 premature deaths per year in Birmingham alone. Air pollution is associated with many adverse health impacts and is recognised as an attributing factor to the onset of cancer, cardiac and respiratory disease. Air pollution often affects those most vulnerable in society the most: children, elderly, those with pre-existing health conditions and those living in less affluent areas. The impacts of air pollution are costing the UK economy £20 billion a year.

Did you know…
– Pollutants such as Benzene and Butadiene are known to be carcinogens.
– Carbon Monoxide affects the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around the body.
– Air pollution contributes to between 28,000 and 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK
– Birmingham City Council monitors air pollution in JUST 3 locations in the region: along the A4540, Acocks Green and Tyburn

The quality of the air we breathe has a massive impact on our health and well-being. It is vital that Birmingham’s air quality is improved!