​Sulphur dioxide is highly reactive gas with a pungent irritating smell. It is formed by fossil fuel combustion at power plants and other industrial facilities.

Natural processes that release sulphur gases include decomposition and combustion of organic matter, spray from the sea, and volcanic eruptions. It contributes to the formation of particulate matter pollution. Sulphur dioxide irritates the lining of the nose, throat and lungs and may worsen existing respiratory illness especially asthma. It has also been found to exacerbate cardiovascular diseases.

Potential health effects from exposure to sulphur dioxide:
  • Narrowing of the airways leading to wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath
  • More frequent asthma attacks in people with asthma
  • Exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases


To learn more, visit our section ‘Who is affected by air pollution’ and ‘Simple steps to protect your health’.

Page Updated: Monday 29 April 2013
Contact page owner: Environmental Health