Levels of particulate matter air pollution are set to hit various areas across England today and tomorrow (April 9-10) due to warm weather and light winds, but the government’s air quality information website remains offline following an Islamist group’s cyber attack.
According to Defra air pollution forecast maps for tomorrow, levels of particulate matter are expected to reach as high as 10 – top of the scale – on areas of the south coast in England such as Eastbourne, with high and moderate levels expected in much of the rest of England and Wales. The pollution is expected to disperse on Saturday and Sunday.
Furthermore, the London Air monitoring website operated by King’s College London forecasted high particulate levels at busy roadside locations today, with poor dispersal of local emissions and a light easterly winds bringing in air from industrial areas of northern France and Belgium.
Meanwhile, the Air Quality in Scotland website is currently (2.00pm) monitoring PM10 levels in Aberdeen as high as 8 on the air quality index.
However, details of specific pollution levels in regional areas of the UK are currently unavailable on the government’s UK Air website, operated by contractor Ricardo-AEA, as the site is offline following a cyber attack by an Islamist group (see airqualitynews.com story). Defra said it is working to get the site back working again “as soon as possible”.
Nevertheless, Defra has issued a warning on the gov.uk domain forecasting high pollution levels at the end of the week and it today (April 9) updated the warning to include health advice from Public Health England (PHE).
Providing the advice, Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, head of the air pollution and climate change group at PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards states: “While most people will not be affected by short term peaks in air pollution, some individuals, particularly those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.”
Dr Vardoulakis explains that as well as affecting vulnerable children and adults, when levels are high, “Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors”.
H3 adds: “Some parts of the country may record ‘very high’ levels of air pollution. PHE is advising people in those areas to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if they experience symptoms such as a cough or sore throat.”
Also today, the London Mayor’s office issued a warning about air pollution in the UK capital over the next few days, stating: “High levels of air pollution forecast today. Get tips to reduce your exposure.”
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England – the region forecasted to be worst hit by tomorrow’s particulate pollution – said after the website hacking it was “very worrying that all government monitors are offline as we head into a very high pollution episode”.
Mr Taylor said: “Air pollution is a deadly serious problem as it causes serious heart and lung problems and is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year in the UK. Whoever forms the next government one of the first things they must do is to urgently address this public health crisis that currently only seems to be getting worse.”
In addition, sustainable transport charity Sustrans also slammed the current spate of poor air quality in the UK as “both criminal and a national embarrassment”.
Philip Insall, director of health for Sustrans, said: “The next government will need to get a grip on air pollution. That will mean serious, dedicated investment and an effective programme of action to help more people out of their cars and choosing walking and cycling for short journeys. That won’t just mean fewer deaths from pollution – it will also tackle obesity and other diseases, climate emissions and congestion, benefiting our health and economy.”
Seb Dance, Labour MEP for London said action was needed “at every tier of government from the EU down” to tackle air pollution, but said the current government had failed to take meaningful action on the issue.
He said: “Only a few weeks after the previous smog episode, a change in wind direction has again put Londoners’ health at more risk.
“This problem can’t be solved by piecemeal measures, or by small intentions at city level. We need action at every tier of government from the EU down. I am determined to ensure that the European Parliament puts in place ambitious targets to improve air quality, but we need a government that will work with others to achieve them and not to just ignore them.”