Air pollution and health


The air that we breathe has a continual impact on our health whether it’s indoors or outdoors. The indoor environment is a considerable environmental exposure given the amount of time we spend inside. In the past the occupational environment has been the focus of attention, but exposure to other environmental agents may also determine health outcomes, such as those within home, schools, colleges and recreational buildings.

The importance of external air quality as a determinant of health is illustrated by public concerns and by the policy statements and actions of the government.

This is an important issue for both us and our partners in local authorities and NHS boards.


View the following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines that aim to eliminate or reduce exposure to air pollutants:


The 'Air Quality (PM2.5 particulate air pollution) and Mortality in Scotland' briefing provides background information on Scotland’s:

  • air pollution and its implications for public health
  • current position in relation to policy and strategy on air quality

It's been produced to coincide with the publication of data on the estimated burden of mortality associated with particulate air pollution at local level within the UK. The briefing is therefore intended primarily for the benefit of local agencies in responding to requests for information on air quality and its impact on health and life expectancy at local level.

Read our air quality and mortality in Scotland briefing paper

A supporting document provides additional information to local agencies, including a series of questions and answers:

Read our air quality and mortality in Scotland supporting information

Products of combustion

The principal products of efficient combustion of organic material are water vapour and carbon dioxide. However, toxic and noxious chemicals may be produced during incomplete or inefficient combustion. In general, the less efficient the combustion, the more toxins are produced. The guidance below lists the:

  • substances of concern
  • exposure symptoms
  • possible long term effects

FInd out more on toxins in fire smoke.