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Air quality

Air Quality in Cornwall

Air quality in Cornwall is generally very good. However, there are certain 'hotspots' where standards fail to meet national air quality objectives. Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) have to be declared in areas where these Government standards are not being met. An Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) is prepared for these areas to target action to improve air quality. 

How we measure air pollution

We are measuring nitrogen dioxide at several locations around the county using ‘diffusion tubes’. These are small plastic tubes that sample nitrogen dioxide for one month before being sent to a laboratory for analysis.  The results give us a good idea of where pollution levels are highest.

At some locations we also have monitors. These continually measure nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter. These are located in some of the most polluted locations to help us identify particular patterns or times of day when pollution is highest.

Reports on air quality in Cornwall, based upon our monitoring, are produced annually.

Air quality data recorded by area

We are regularly asked for information on air quality in a particular area of the county. We have therefore produced an interactive map for residents to clearly see our monitoring data.

The monitoring data shows levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) averaged over one year. All figures are shown in micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air (µg/m3). This can then be compared to the UK government objective for NO2, which is 40 µg/m3. This is the level at which the Council needs to take action to improve air quality. All levels above 40 µg/m3 are shown in orange or red on the map.

However, it is important to bear in mind that air quality is often measured close to the roadside. This does not mean that the nearest properties will necessarily experience levels of NO2 as high. NO2 levels drop very quickly with distance from the road. In areas where levels are currently exceeding 40 µg/m3, Cornwall Council is already taking action to improve air quality.

The most recent year of monitoring is shown. Where monitoring is being undertaken in 2019, data will become available in 2020.

Open the map in a new tab

What you can do to improve air quality

We can all take steps to improve air quality, even small changes contribute to making a difference if enough of us make a change. Some suggestions include:

  • Walk children to school instead of driving – did you know car drivers can be exposed to twice as much pollution as pedestrians?
  • Turn off your car engine if parked or stuck in traffic. It is better for the environment, fuel economy and health to switch off your engine and re-start it after a minute or longer, than it is to leave it running
  • Seen a smoky bus or lorry?  You can report it to the DVLA.  Make a note of the registration number and where and when you saw it
  • Travelling into Truro?  Use the Park and Ride service instead of driving into the city centre

Cornwall’s Annual Status Reports (ASRs)

Every year the Council has to produce an Annual Status Report. This is submitted to DEFRA for review and approval. These reports contain air quality data collected from the monitoring we have undertaken across Cornwall each year. They also detail actions taken so far to improve the air quality in our Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). The ASR reports can be downloaded below: 

For more information on air quality and the levels of pollutants that should be in our air visit the Defra UK-AIR website.

Clean Air For Cornwall Strategy 

The Clean Air for Cornwall Strategy was published in December 2020 and aims to protect residents from the harmful effects of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and maintain good air quality in Cornwall.


Find out more about Cornwall’s new #BeAirAware campaign.

Vehicle Idling

Idling means leaving a vehicle's engine running while it is stationary.

Idling can contribute to poorer air quality in Cornwall, which can harm our health and the environment.

Help protect your health and the health of others by switching your vehicle engine off, if you are stationary for more than 1 minute.

For more information, please visit our idling webpage.

Burning solid fuel in the home 

Visit our Burning solid fuel in the home web page for guidance on: 

  • Solid fuel appliances
  • Installing and maintaining your appliance 
  • Burning better: choosing the best fuels for your health, the environment and your wallet 
  • How to save energy and keep warm


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