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Defra issues air quality update

Government issues information and advice amid high air pollution levels measured across England and Wales

The UK government has today (March 19) issued information and advice in response to current high air pollution levels being measured across England and Wales.

An ‘Air quality update: 19 March 2015’ was published on the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website this afternoon, explaining that the current episode is “due to pollution brought in via winds from the continent and particulate matter from a combination of local sourcesâ€?.

Defra's Nobel House headquarters in London

Defra’s Nobel House headquarters in London

The update also includes links to further information regarding the government’s health advice to vulnerable people during episodes of high air pollution.

However, according to the update “levels are expected to fall later today with moderate or low levels predicted tomorrow as changes in weather conditions lead to the dispersal of pollutantsâ€?.

It also reports that air pollution levels in London and the South East are “already down to moderate and are expected to be reporting lows by tomorrowâ€?.

Explaining the current situation, a Defra spokeswoman said today (March 19): “Winds bringing in pollution from the continent, combined with locally generated pollution and still weather conditions has led to some high pollution measurements across the UK. Levels are expected to go down later today with moderate or low levels predicted for tomorrow. For the latest forecasts and health advice please visit: http://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/â€?

Criticism

However, Defra, local authorities and the London Mayor have all faced criticism for not doing enough to combat or raise awareness of air pollution amid the current episode from campaigners and politicians.

Labour MEP for London, Seb Dance, said the current “toxic smogâ€? covering the UK and parts of Europe “demonstrates how urgently we need to see comprehensive action across all levels of government to combat air pollutionâ€?.

Mr Dance, who is also the shadow rapporteur for the EU’s National Emission Ceiling Directive – for which updated legislation is currently being discussed – said: “So far this year my region, London has already breached its air pollution targets and the Mayor’s response advising people to stay indoors rather than taking action to solve the root of the problem simply isn’t good enough.

“I am proud to say that the European Parliament by contrast is working with other governments, cities and regions as well as manufacturers and industrial sources of air pollution to improve the quality of our air and to save lives.â€?

Fellow MEP for the South East, Catherine Bearder of the Lib Dems, said that the “deadly smogâ€? was a reminder that air pollution “doesn’t respect national borders and neither should our efforts to tackle itâ€?.

She called for new EU air pollution limits as “we urgently need to put in place strict limits across Europe that will force governments to take action and improve air qualityâ€?.

The Lib Dem MEP added: “The longer we wait, the longer people will continue to suffer from the health impacts of air pollution.â€?

Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates also called on the government to “protect our health by acting urgently on the main cause of this pollution, which is too much dirty traffic – they should scrap road-building plans and cut traffic through better cycling facilities and modern public transportâ€?.

In response today, a Defra spokeswoman said: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and we are investing heavily in measures across government to continue this, committing £2 billion since 2011 in green transport initiatives.â€?

In total across all pollutants there are around 300 monitoring sites across the UK.

The Defra spokeswoman added: “We continue to support local authorities in identifying the best solutions for their area and sharing best practice. Government further supports these efforts through the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund and our Air Quality Grant Scheme.â€?

Related Links:

Defra air quality

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