People at risk from coronavirus warned with ‘very high’ air pollution episode predicted for UK

Much of southern England and parts of Wales will be hit with either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of air pollution later this week, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which could leave people vulnerable to the worst symptoms of coronavirus more exposed.

Simon Birkett from Clean Air In London says the sources of the pollution will be agricultural ammonia, building emissions, fires, and pollution from industry which has blown over from Europe. The low winds will then make it harder to disperse. 

Today (April 8), pollution from Europe will hit the eastern part of England with the Norwich area seeing ‘very high’ levels, according to the Defra forecast.

‘Very high’ levels are expected over south Wales on Thursday (April 9), which will develop on Friday (April 10), covering almost the whole of the south of England and continuing into the weekend.

Kings College London says it is possible that over the next few days London will see an import from the continent of the chemical pre-cursors required for ozone (O3) production as well as  fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Last month, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), reported that doctors have linked higher death rates for coronavirus to illnesses caused by air pollution such as high blood pressure, diabetes and certain respiratory illnesses.

With the UK in its third week of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people will be leaving their house once a day to take general exercise.

However, in a ‘very high’ air pollution episode, Defra recommends that adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. They also say people with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

Councils across the country have already warned residents not to burn garden waste or light bonfires, because the smoke makes respiratory conditions worse.

Since the coronavirus lockdown began two weeks ago there have been large drops in transport-related nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in cities across the UK. However, some areas such as Bromley in London have seen increases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which councillors there believe is due to an increase in garden bonfires.

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