Air quality

We regularly monitor the air quality across the South Somerset to ensure it is within the limits set to protect good health.

Air quality in South Somerset

Air Pollutants

Air pollutants are any unwanted substance or chemical that contaminates the air that we breathe resulting in a decline in air quality. The pollutants of most concern in South Somerset are particulates, nitrogen oxides and ozone.

Particulates are small bits of solid or liquid matter, for example soot, dust, fumes and aerosols carried in the air. They are produced by factories, cars and coal burning in some homes.

Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) are emitted from combustion sources such as cars and power stations. Increased emissions are particularly associated with congested traffic.

Ozone, a form of oxygen, is more commonly associated with the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from the Sun's harmful rays. Near the ground however, it is a harmful pollutant made in the air when other pollutants mix together in sunlight. It is the main gas found in modern smogs.

Human health

The relationship between air quality and health has been well publicised. Most of the main air pollutants can be harmful to health, particularly for those most sensitive to its effects such as children and the elderly.

Particulates in air pollution are one of the main causes of health problems. When we breathe in air pollution, the very fine particulates can easily enter our lungs, where they can cause breathing problems, and over time even lead to cancer.

In significant concentrations nitrogen dioxide can cause serious lung damage with a delayed effect. Health effects of exposure to lower concentrations include shortness of breath and chest pains.

Ozone that forms near to the ground can cause breathing problems and also cause damage to lungs and throats. If you have asthma then the symptoms may be even more severe.

What can Individuals do to help improve air quality

Individual action in our own community and towns can help in reducing all kinds of air quality problems.  The primary source of air pollution in South Somerset is from transportation.  So here are some tips on how you can help reduce the impact of our transportation needs.

  • Break the car addiction! Use public transit or join a carpool. Better yet, ride your bike or use your feet. Even if each of us leaves our car at home just once a week, the reduction in emissions will be substantial.
  • Combine trips to save fuel and reduce exhaust. Parking and walking is easier on the air than sitting with your motor running at drive-through restaurants and banks.
  • Don't idle. Idling is running the vehicle, instead of turning it off, when it's sitting still or parked longer than 10 seconds (e.g., when you're waiting for someone). 
  • Idling is not an effective way to warm up a vehicle. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle slowly for the first few miles or so
  • Switch to cleaner fuels. Cleaner fuels (alternative fuels) are low-polluting fuels that can be used in motor vehicles instead of petrol or diesel. Examples include ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity.
  • Slow down and avoid heavy braking when you drive. You'll use less fuel and thereby produce less pollution.
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained with a regular service and an annual emissions check.
  • Use radial tires to cut down on tire drag and save fuel. By inflating your tires to the manufacturer's recommended pressure you'll save up to 10% on fuel consumption.
  • Looking for a new vehicle? Go for a smaller, fuel-efficient model with low emissions. Buy for your regular use, rather than getting a larger vehicle you rarely need.


Air quality bulletins

The Yeovil Air Quality Monitoring Station has been decommissioned due to the cost of ongoing maintenance and potential upgrades. Nitrogen dioxide is still monitored using a network of diffusion tubes. The results of this monitoring can be found in our annual reports.

The Charlton Mackrell (formerly Somerton) Air Quality Monitoring Station is now owned and managed by Defra. Data from this station can be viewed on Defra's website

Air quality bulletins up until July 2014 can be viewed using the link on the right

See air quality bulletins

Air quality reports

View air quality reports for South Somerset.

See air quality reports

 National Air Quality Archive