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  • Sustainability

Air Pollution: What Should We Tell Our Patients?

Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure.1 It goes hand in hand with global warming, caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, indirectly contributing to the severity of respiratory health.2 

The significance of air pollution and how it interacts with the respiratory system is important for healthcare professionals, in order to understand and address respiratory health risk factors and equally for patients to recognise when managing their own lung conditions.

Long-term and even short-term exposure to air pollution can increase the burden of risk for acute respiratory exacerbations.3,4

In this presentation, Dr Paul Pfeffer discusses the risk factors associated with air pollution exposure and the impact on our lungs, with recognition of this impact on respiratory patients.

He is joined by Dr Malcolm White, from the charity Global Action Plan, who provides an overview of air pollution in the UK and outlines some key considerations of how we can work together to reduce pollutants in the air for the benefit of everyone.


1.  UK Government. Review of interventions to improve outdoor ait quality and public health. 2019. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5fbf93258fa8f559dbb1add9/Review_of_interventions_to_improve

2. Gennaro D’Amato, Lorenzo Cecchi, Mariella D’Amato, Isabella Annesi-Maesano. European Respiratory Review Jun 2014, 23 (132) 161-169; DOI: 10.1183/09059180.00001714

3. Li J, Sun S, Tang R, et al. Major air pollutants and risk of COPD exacerbations: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2016;11:3079-3091. Published 2016 Dec 12. doi:10.2147/COPD.S122282

4. Tiotiu AI, Novakova P, Nedeva D, et al. Impact of Air Pollution on Asthma Outcomes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(17):6212. Published 2020 Aug 27. doi:10.3390/ijerph17176212

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  • Dr Malcolm White

    Clean Air Specialist at Global Action Plan

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  • Dr Paul Pfeffer

    Consultant Respiratory Physician and Honorary Senior Lecturer

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