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Since the introduction of unleaded petrol in the UK there has been a significant reduction in urban lead levels. In recent years industry, in particular secondary non-ferrous metal smelters, have become the most significant contributors to emissions of lead. The highest concentrations of lead and heavy metals are now therefore found around these installations in industrial areas.
Even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially to infants and young children. In addition, lead taken in by the mother can interfere with the health of the unborn child. Exposure has also been linked to impaired mental function, visual-motor performance and neurological damage in children, and memory and attention span.