People across England and Wales should prepare for “very high” levels of air pollution today, the Government has warned.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the pollution, which is said to be a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara, is set to spread across East Anglia and the East Midlands.
“This is due to light easterly winds continuing to bring in pollutants and allow local pollutants to remain close to source. There may also be some component due to Saharan dust”, Defra said.
The high levels of pollution is expected to continue tomorrow towards the Midlands, including Lincolnshire and the easternmost parts and the north coast of Wales, northwest England and southwest Scotland.
Defra uses a 10-point scale to measure air quality, with a 10 warning suggesting “very high” levels of pollution and a one warning meaning there is a “low risk”.
Prof. Alastair Lewis, Director at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) said the current conditions highlight the “rather limited room for manoeuvre that exists for controlling severe UK pollution events”.
He added: “The worst air quality days in Britain often involve the import of pollution from continental Europe on easterly winds – from traffic, power stations, agriculture, industry and so on – and this current event is compounded by natural dust as well.
“Since cumulative exposure to pollution occurs year-round, it reinforces how important it is that we do all we can to improve air quality under more ‘normal’ weather conditions, when our fate is more in our own hands.”
Last month the EU launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to reduce “excessive” levels of nitrogen dioxide – a toxic gas that stems mostly from traffic fumes.