A number of contributing factors affect the quality of the air; however the main activity that causes locally high levels of air pollution is the use of motor vehicles – particularly those with diesel engines. Road transport is estimated to be responsible for up to 70% of the harm associated with air pollution.

There is a growing evidence base that demonstrates long term exposure to air pollution is harmful at levels well below current air quality limits/targets and is causing a significant morbidity and mortality burden in Derby. By far the largest disease burden attributable to environmental exposure and management of chemicals is related to exposure to air pollution.

Whilst the Local Air Quality Plan focuses on achieving reductions in NO2 emissions, it is anticipated that many of the measures will also benefit the levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 – technically referred to as airborne particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5μm or less). PM2.5 is an issue because the tiny particles can enter your lungs and are even small enough to get into your blood. It is expected that measures designed to tackle NO2 would also help to reduce fine particulate (PM2.5) levels. The local mortality burden attributed to particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution in Derby City is calculated as being equivalent to 131 deaths and an associated loss to the population of 1,425 life-years.

The impact of air pollution affects the whole population; however it disproportionately affects those living in environments close to main transport routes, the most deprived communities, children, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease and respiratory conditions.

Derby City Council has declared two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) for NO2 based on measured concentrations exceeding the national objective, covering the inner and outer ring roads, and the A52 around Spondon, principally due to emissions from road transport.