Pollutants: Sulphur Dioxide
This section is intended to help people looking for information about the pollutant sulphur dioxide.
What is sulphur dioxide?
Sulphur dioxide ('SO2') is produced when a material, or fuel, containing sulphur is burned. Globally, much of the sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere comes from natural sources.
Where are the trouble spots in the UK?
In the UK the major contributors are power stations (65% of the total emissions). Sulphur dioxide levels in this country have dropped considerably over recent years due to cleaner power stations and a decreased use of coal.
The highest levels of sulphur dioxide are recorded in areas where coal is used extensively.
Sulphur dioxide pollution episodes only generally occur where there is widespread domestic use of coal or in the vicinity of coal- or oil-fired power stations. The weather conditions that lead to an SO2 episode are explained later in this section.
What are the health effects?
Short-term exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide may cause coughing, tightening of the chest and irritation of the lungs.
Last updated : 24/07/2007