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Yes. It is. You may have heard about London or other cities exceeding their legal limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or particulate matter (PM), but air quality is also a problem in parts of Colchester.

Did you know that the costs to society of air pollution are similar to those caused by obesity and smoking?

Why should you care?

A lot of research has been done into how poor air quality, often caused by emissions from diesel engines, is affecting our health. People who are particularly vulnerable are pregnant women, babies, children, people with existing respiratory problems as well as elderly people. But actually it affects us all. 

Air pollution:

  • increases the risk of getting lung cancer, and contributes to about 1 in 13 cases.

  • Being exposed to air pollution for a long time is bad for your heart and blood vessels. It is linked to a number of cardiovascular diseases in adults, such as furring of the arteries.

  • may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

  • increases the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory causes, especially among people with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions.

  • leads to more visits to A&E and hospital admissions.

  • People who live near busy roads are more likely to get dementia (but we need to do more research to be sure it’s caused by air pollution).

  • NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) – a common air pollutant – causes coughs and phlegm in adults.


You can find out more about why air pollution is particularly damaging to children's lungs as they develop here:

FAQs on air pollution and children's lungs

"All of the organs in the body seem to be affected in some way by breathing in air pollution."
Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group at King's College London 

Who is most at risk?

People living near busy roads or walk along them frequently, people near sitting traffic and, ironically, people in the cars themselves, are most at risk of exposure to dangerous pollution. The closer you are to the origin of the emissions - so in the case of diesel cars, the exhaust pipe - is where you will be exposed to the highest concentration. The good news is that just walking one street away from busy traffic will make a significant impact on how much you breathe in. We have a page "what you can do" which will give you some tips.

What do we know about air quality in Colchester?

The main source of air pollution in Colchester is from motor vehicles. Vehicles emit air pollutants such as; nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter. 


As the oldest Roman town in Britain, Colchester has many narrow roads in the town centre.  The buildings flank to form a canyon-like environment which can trap air pollutants, which means we end up breathing them.  As well, the traffic congestion that occurs every day in Colchester has a direct impact on the air we breathe.

In some parts of Colchester, levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the legal limit of 40 mg/m3. Essex County Council is therefore failing in it's statutory obligation to ensure that air pollution is being kept within legal limits. 

An Air Quality Plan for Colchester was published in 2016 (find it here) by Colchester Borough Council (CBC) outlining the actions that CBC will deliver between 2016 and 2021 to reduce concentrations of air pollutants and exposure to air pollution.

A recent update (find it here) has shown that between 2015 and 2016 nitrogen dioxide levels have increased.

This is a map from that shows the areas of greatest risk in 2012. We currently don't have a more recent map however some air quality testing kits were put up by the Green Party in Castle Ward and show air pollution levels in excess of legal limits (40 mg/m3).

Watch a short film to find out more

"AIR" is a short film by local filmmaker Eleanor Church

If you would like to use the film at a meeting or event, or would like to share it on social media, please do! That's what it's there for. Eleanor can provide you with a high res version for events.



Listen to Dr Paul Byrne's presentation on air quality in Colchester and look through his PowerPoint

Local doctor, Paul Byrne, has presented this in-depth and fascinating insight into air quality in Colchester at a number of events. It is a fantastic local resource to better understand what is happening both nationally and locally. 



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