Ozone (O3) alert levels have been breached in the UK for the fourth consecutive day, breaking the record for consecutive days where Defra have been legally required to inform the public of a pollution alert.
Northampton Spring Park recorded the most breaches across the four days (August 24, 25, 26, 27) with monitors recording fourteen hours above the EU’s threshold of 180 µg/m3. Other cities on the east coast, including Norwich, Hull and Canterbury, also saw high levels of ozone pollution.
Since the EU’s Air Quality Directive was adopted in 2008, Member States are legally required to provide the public with information if the hourly limit goes above the threshold.
The EU says the threshold reflects a ‘level beyond which there is a risk to human health from brief exposure for particularly sensitive sections of the population’.
O3 is not emitted directly in significant quantities but is created in the air through chemical reactions between other pollutants in sunlight.
Northampton Spring Park was also close to being above the higher threshold of 240 µg/m3 for three hours or more which would have required the UK government to produce a short term action plan to reduce the pollution.
Ozone levels reached record highs in the UK last year, with researchers attributing the rise to last year’s unusually prolonged and hot summer.
Experts expect soaring temperatures related to climate change will worsen air quality by increasing the number of days blighted by high ozone levels.
The bank holiday weekend was the hottest on record and several locations around the country also saw hourly spikes for particulate matter (PM2.5).
At Midday on Monday (August 26), Liverpool Speke saw an hourly reading of 139 µg/m3 and other locations across the country including London Marleybone Road, Birmingham Tyburn and Hull Freetown all rose above ‘unhealthy’ PM2.5 levels.
Simon Birkett of Clean Air In London told AirQualityNews that he is disappointed that Defra ‘buried’ the pollution alerts on its website and did not send out press releases informing the media of the breaches.
A Defra spokesperson said: ‘We know the impact air pollution has on communities around the UK, which is why we are stepping up the pace and taking urgent action to improve air quality.
‘We are working hard to reduce transport emissions and are already investing £3.5 billion to clean up our air, while our Clean Air Strategy has been commended by the World Health Organization as an “example for the rest of the world to follow”.’
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