Health warning as Saharan dust cloud set to send air pollution levels soaring

Daily air quality index from DEFRA
Daily air quality index from DEFRA
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A health warning has been issued as air pollution is expected to reach high levels in the South East today.

Levels of air pollution are expected to reach moderate to high levels in some parts of the UK including the South East as a cloud of Saharan dust is blown across our shores.

The South East, London, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and parts of the West Midlands are all expected to be affected by the phenomena today.

The warning has been issued by Defra (The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) which recommends that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.

Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.

Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, Head of PHE’s Environmental Change Department, said: “Public Health England provides advice to Defra on the health effects of ambient air pollution.

“While most people will not be affected by short term peaks in ambient air pollution, some individuals, such as those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.

“On occasions where levels are high, adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion. Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.”

Saharan dust is lifted by strong winds and can reach very high altitudes; from there it can be transported worldwide by winds, covering distances of thousands of kilometres. The dust gets caught in rain droplets in clouds, falling to the ground in rain. When the water evaporates, a thin layer of dust is left on surfaces, like cars. It can also lead to vivid sunsets.

Levels of air pollution are forecast to be Low over the UK on Friday, but may become Moderate across parts of England and Wales on Saturday. On Sunday, air pollution levels are forecast to be Low across all areas.

A rating of 1,2 or 3 shows low pollution. 4,5 or 6 moderate, while 7,8 and 9 is high.