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Defra investing heavily in transport to tackle emissions

As high levels of air pollution are felt across much of Wales and the South of England, Defra claims it is working to ‘tackle issue head on’

The government has said it is “investing heavily in local and transport initiativesâ€? to tackle poor air quality, as high levels of pollution are felt across much of Wales and the South of England.

Over the coming days, very high pollution levels are being forecast by the Met Office across much of Wales and southern England, with pollution in parts of the country expected to reach as high as 10 – the top of Defra’s air pollution scale (see airqualitynews.com story).

Evidence of the air pollution was seen by London residents this morning - with a light layer of dust found settled on vehicles in some areas

Evidence of the air pollution was seen by London residents this morning – with a light layer of dust found settled on vehicles in some areas

And, the smog also comes in the wake of World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates last week that both outdoor and indoor air pollution prematurely killed around seven million people worldwide in 2012 (see airqualitynews.com story).

But, with fears about the health impacts from the latest smog episode, Defra has said has been working to “tackle this issue head onâ€?, with transport initiatives and its newly-introduced online five-day forecast service with updates from the Met Office.

However, there have been reports today that Defra’s online air pollution forecast pages have been struggling to load, likely due to the increased internet traffic because of media coverage of the current smog.

And, according to Defra’s latest pollution summary, at 12pm GMT there were no air pollution readings showing from UK monitoring sites. Readings were visible at 10am, however, which appeared to show that there were no readings of high or very high pollution levels (above 6 on the pollution index scale) across the UK.

A Defra spokesperson said today (April 2): “The high level of air pollution this week is due to a combination of local emissions, light winds, pollution from the continent and dust blown over from the Sahara.

“We want to keep improving air quality and have introduced a new five day forecast service in addition to investing heavily in local and transport initiatives to tackle this issue head on.â€?

Met Office

Explaining the causes of the latest smog outbreak this week, the Met Office said that dust from the Sahara is lifted by strong winds, reaching high altitudes and being blown thousands of kilometres. The dust can then become caught in rain droplets in clouds and fall to the ground in rain, with dust then settling on surfaces when the water evaporates, which can also lead to ‘vivid sunsets’.

Paul Hutcheon at the Met Office said: “We usually see this happen several times a year when big dust storms in the Sahara coincide with southerly winds to bring that dust here. More dust rain is possible during showers expected later this week.â€?

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