The Government's health advisers say planning authorities must make sure new building projects protect people from air pollution.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says local areas should assess planning applications and consider how the effects of pollution caused by traffic may affect local communities.
This includes assessing building designs to see how physical barriers will affect the distribution of air pollution.
It says schools and care homes should not be sited in areas where pollution levels may be high to reduce the impact on vulnerable groups.
More trees and vegetation could be introduced in open spaces or green roofs, and safe routes for walking and cycling should be included in local plans to encourage people to exercise.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: 'It’s important that local authorities implement strategies to ensure local people are protected from the effects of air pollution
'If we can address pollution at the planning stage, we can reduce the need for expensive remedial action further down the line.'