Londoners have been warned to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise on Friday due to potentially dangerous levels of air pollution.
The government’s UK-AIR website last night forecasted a rare episode of ‘very high’ pollution ranked 10/10 for potential harm – the first such rating in the city since March 2018.
Although this rating has since been revised down to 8/10 on Friday morning, adults and children in London who have lung problems should still reduce outdoor strenuous physical exertion in the city today.
Friday’s poor air quality is due to an area of high pressure covering western Europe, which leads to a lack of air movement meaning pollutants aren’t blown away.
Central London is worst affected, although areas with the 8/10 rating include Hampstead in the north, Uxbridge in the west and Hackney in the east.
Primary pollutants in London are particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3), many of which come from vehicle exhausts
Central London is worst affected, although areas with the 8/10 rating include Hampstead in the north, Uxbridge in the west and Hackney in the east
10/10 AIR POLLUTION BANDING
Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity.
People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.
Reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.
The 10/10 forecast was first spotted by non-profit organisation Clean Air in London, which posted warnings on Twitter.
‘It’s likely to be a short sharp nasty episode caused by the build-up of building and traffic emissions over several days into windless air over London,’ Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, told MailOnline.
‘Londoners are stewing in their own juice. Relief is expected for Londoners tomorrow as wind speeds pick up and blow the pollution towards other people.
‘There may also be a temperature inversion stopping air from rising/mixing upwards.’
Air pollution forecast service UK-AIR comes under the government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
According to the service’s website, an air pollution banding of 10 poses a particular risk to adults and children with heart or lung problems.
‘Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity,’ it says.
An air pollution banding of 10 means adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often
‘People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.
‘Reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.’
As of Friday lunchtime, UK-AIR is forecasting widespread 7-8/10 particle air pollution in London today rather than ‘very high’ (10/10).
A forecast of 8/10 is still described as ‘high’ and could still affect adults and children who have lung problems and adults with heart problems.
Air quality in some parts of London have already registered above legal thresholds, mostly due to nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants from vehicles.
Earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said London was facing a pollution crisis as people in the city are shunning public transport in favour of cars.
Earlier this week, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured) warned that unless efforts increase to deliver a green, sustainable recovery from the pandemic, the capital could move from one public health and economy crisis to another, caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads
‘If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future we will replace one public health crisis with another, caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads,’ said Mr Khan.
‘The cost to both Londoners and the capital cannot be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts.’
Mr Khan introduced the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to London in April 2019, which allows authorities to charge diesel vehicles for being in Central London, with the aim of reducing emissions in some of the city’s most polluted areas.
The zone was expanded from Central London up to, but not including, the North and South Circular Roads from October 25, 2021.
However, an Imperial College London study published in November found it isn’t making much of a difference to the city’s air pollution
The Ultra Low Emission Zone is an area in London where a fee is charged for driving the most polluting vehicles
ULEZ now stretches to cover an area surrounded by the North and South Circular roads. The ULEZ is separate from the Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which implemented tougher emissions standards for heavy diesel vehicles from March 1, 2021
Primary pollutants in London are particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3), many of which come from vehicle exhausts.
Particulate matter, or PM, comes from a variety of sources, including vehicle exhausts, construction sites, industrial activity or even domestic stoves and ovens – and has already been linked to premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
NO2, which comes from burning diesel and petrol in car engines, inflames the lining of the lungs and can reduce immunity to lung infections while exacerbating respiratory problems.
O3, meanwhile, is a secondary pollutant formed when sunlight and high temperature catalyse chemical reactions in the lower atmosphere.
When inhaled, O3 reacts chemically with many biological molecules in the respiratory tract, causing pulmonary and heart disease.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE WORLD’S MAJOR AIR POLLUTANTS?
According to the Environmental protection Agency, there are six major pollutants which can impact on human health and well-being.
Particulate matter: Particulate matter is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.
These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
Fine particles (2.5 parts per million)are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas.
Carbon monoxide: Breathing air with a high concentration of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain.
At very high levels, which are possible indoors or in other enclosed environments, CO can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death.
Nitrogen dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO
It forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.
Breathing air with a high concentration of NO can irritate airways in the human respiratory system. Such exposures over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing).
Sulfur dioxide: The largest source of Sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.
Short-term exposures to SO can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult. Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO.
Ground-level Ozone: The ozone layer in the lower area of the lower portion of the stratosphere, approximately 12 to 19 miles above the surface of the planet (20 to 30 km).
Although ozone protects us against UV radiation, when it is found at ground level it can cause health problems for vulnerable people who suffer from lung diseases such as asthma.
It is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) – that are found in exhaust fumes – in the presence of sunlight.
Lead: Major sources of lead in the air are ore and metals processing and piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded aviation fuel.
Other sources are waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers. The highest air concentrations of lead are usually found near lead smelters.
Depending on the level of exposure, lead can adversely affect the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and developmental systems and the cardiovascular system.
Infants and young children are especially sensitive to even low levels of lead, which may contribute to behavioural problems, learning deficits and lowered IQ.