A green and
pleasant
land?

The surprising sources of air pollution in the countryside

Living in the countryside is widely believed to be better for your health than living in a city, with the wide-open spaces and plenty of fresh air.

Indeed, life expectancy is higher for people born in rural areas than in urban areas, according to Government statistics.

However pristine the countryside may be, there are still many surprising sources of air pollution. That matters because air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to it.

One major source of air pollution comes from power plants. The UK’s remaining coal-fired power plants will be closed over the next few years but, in the meantime, they still contribute to air pollution. 

When it comes to keeping warm, wood-burning stoves and biomass boilers have recently become more popular but are also having an impact on our air quality. They are now the single largest contributor to the UK’s particulate matter emissions.

The shift to cleaner power sources championed in the Government’s recent Clean Air Strategy will help reduce air pollution as well as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Agriculture and air pollution

Another major source of air pollution in rural areas comes from the agriculture sector itself. It is the main source of ammonia, accounting for 88% of UK emissions in 2016. Ammonia is emitted by the waste matter of livestock and is also used in many fertilisers. It can contribute to high levels of smog in urban areas and can also impact human health.

Agriculture also accounts for around 51% of methane emissions. Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas in the UK and contributes to global warming.

Surprisingly, the air pollutant ozone is found in greater quantities in the countryside than in cities. It forms when sunlight hits certain air pollutants. However, some of these pollutants also help to degrade ozone. It’s why there is less ozone in cities, where there are often greater concentrations of pollutants.

Ozone in the air can affect crops and reduce some harvests by around 5% a year. What’s more, high levels can cause eye and nose irritation, as well as damage to airways. 

Change is possible

There are ways to combat air pollution in rural areas, and the Clean Air Strategy lays out many initiatives and recommendations, from using cleaner fuels to providing farmers with funds for emissions reducing infrastructure.

There are also ways that we can change our behaviour to contribute to cleaner air around the UK, regardless of where we live.

At E.ON, we are doing our best to contribute to a healthier planet by offering our customers solutions that can help address the air pollution crisis. For example, we’re now providing all our customers’ homes1– and eligible small businesses2 – with electricity backed by 100% renewable sources.

Learn more about our efforts to help clear the air

1. Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to homes and businesses comes from the National Grid. Find out more at eonenergy.com/renewable

2. Eligible customers include SMEs who are fed by a non-half hourly meter agreeing a Fixed Business Plan directly with E.ON.