Pollution Impacts from Construction Sites and How to Mitigate

The urban landscape is ever-changing. New buildings rise, old ones are refurbished, and the skyline constantly evolves. While construction activities are signs of progress and growth, they also have undeniable environmental repercussions, particularly in the area of air pollution, which can have a devastating impact on people's health.

Historically, the majority of interventions targeting air pollution have focused on vehicular emissions, which have been a dominant source of pollutants.[1] However, the construction industry’s contribution to air pollution, especially in urban zones, cannot be overlooked. The UK, for example, witnesses a staggering 36,000 premature deaths annually due to the adverse effects of air pollution, with 4,000 of these occurring in the city of London alone, where construction activities are responsible for approximately 30% of particulate matter (PM10) emissions.[2]


Air Pollution and Construction Sites

Air pollution, at its core, refers to the introduction of harmful substances into the atmosphere.[3] Construction sites are notorious for their contribution to this problem. The heavy machinery used, the emissions from these machines, and the sheer amount of activity that happens on a site every day all leads to a notable increase in pollutants in the air.

  • Health Hazards: One of the most immediate and concerning impacts of construction site air pollution is the adverse impact on human health. Dust and particulate matter from construction activities can lead to respiratory problems, exacerbating conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Additionally, exposure to pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals can have long-term health consequences, including cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. The British Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states: “It is estimated that past exposures in the construction sector cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and approximately 3,700 deaths annually [4].”
  • Environmental Degradation:
    Air pollution from construction sites is not only harmful to people, but also to the environment. Air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter contribute to smog formation, which affects air quality and visibility. In addition, these pollutants can settle on the ground and in bodies of water, contaminating soil and water.[5]
  • Climate Change
    Construction-related air pollution is a contributing factor to climate change. The release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from construction equipment, energy consumption and the production of construction materials all contribute to global warming. Given the consequences of climate change, reducing emissions from construction activities is crucial.[6]
  • Indoor Air Quality Concerns
    During construction projects, it's not only the external environment that suffers. Buildings adjacent to construction sites often experience deteriorating indoor air quality. Dust particles infiltrate ventilation systems, and pollutants can get trapped indoors. This poses a significant health risk to inhabitants and can exacerbate similar respiratory conditions like asthma. Read more in this blog article why indoor air quality is oftentimes worse than outdoor air quality.


Measuring PM (Particulate Matter)

A key component of understanding and controlling construction site pollution is to measure particulate matter (PM). These tiny particles, often invisible to the naked eye, pose serious health risks when inhaled. Monitoring PM levels on construction sites helps in enforcing construction dust control measures and ensuring compliance with safety standards.

There are several advanced technologies and equipment available today that can measure PM levels in real-time, providing immediate feedback to site managers. This is where BlueSky™ Environmental Air Quality Monitors come into play, equipped to detect and measure PM levels (PM2.5 and PM10),  a range of gases including CO, CO₂, NO₂, SO₂, and O₃, while providing valuable data on temperature, relative humidity (RH), and barometric pressure (BP). Deploy one or more monitors and track real-time air quality conditions using the TSI Link™ Solutions cloud-based software. With this software solution, you can access your data and operate your devices remotely—anytime, anywhere.

By being proactive in this domain, construction companies can mitigate health risks and play a pivotal role in enhancing air quality.


[1] Zhang, Kai and Batterman, Stuart: Air pollution and health risks due to vehicle traffic. IN: Science of the Total Environment Volume 450-451, April 15, 2023, pp. 307-316: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969713001290?via%3Dihub, last checked Oct 11, 2023

[5] Manisalidis, Ioannis et al.: Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review. IN: Frontiers of Public Health, Volume 8, 2020, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.00014, last checked Oct 11, 2023

[6] Ibid.