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How can I protect myself and my family I when I am out and about?



Transport is a major source of pollution and changing how we travel can reduce how much pollution we create, and how much pollution we breathe in 

a line illustration of two family groups: a pregnant mum and a young child, and a male and female copy with a toddler
A line illustration of a small child on a scooter, a person walking, and someone cycling. in the background is a queue of car traffic

Use people power


Walk, cycle or scoot whenever you can, rather than driving. Being stuck in traffic can expose you to lots of pollution. Polluted air from the exhaust of the vehicles in front can get sucked into your car, and often stays trapped there, meaning you might breathe in more of the pollution.


An experiment found that a car driver was exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and nine times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day.

Take quieter routes


When you can, avoid walking along the busiest roads. Choose ways to get to your destination that use quieter streets, trips through parks and other green spaces or pedestrianised areas.


Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads, and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%.


You can also think about when you travel. If possible, avoid travelling at rush hour when the pollution levels are often much higher.


Young children can be especially vulnerable to pollution on busy routes. A recent experiment found children were exposed to 30% more toxic pollution than adults while walking to school.

A line illustration of a family walking through a park

What if I have to drive?


We know that sometimes going places by car is unavoidable, but there are still some things that you can do to reduce the impact on yourself, your family and your local community.


Don't idle. It is less polluting to turn your engine off and restart it after a minute or longer than to leave your engine running.


Drive smoothly. Anticipate the road conditions and drive smoothly, avoiding sudden sharp breaking or accelerating. This will reduce the amount of fuel you use, and therefore reduce your tailpipe emissions, and will also reduce wear on your brakes which can also contribute to particulate emissions.


Try electric. If you are looking into replacing your car, test drive an electric one. Lots of car clubs also offer electric vehicles, and there are more and more electric taxis and buses on the road as well. 

Do face masks protect against air pollution?


Many of the face masks on the market don’t stop you from breathing in the smallest particles of air pollution.


For them to work, face masks need to fit very snugly, and have very effective filters. Instead of relying on face masks to protect you from air pollution try to take quieter routes away from traffic instead.

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If you would like to find out more about where all the stats, facts and figures have come from, see our references page