Public advice issued amid high UK pollution levels

With ‘high’  and ‘very high’ levels of particulate matter PM2.5 monitored across the UK today (March 5), Defra has issued air pollution advice to the public, writes Michael Holder

The UK government has issued advice to the public in the midst of ‘high’ and ‘very high’ levels of air pollution monitored across the UK today.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has warned on its website that although most people will not be affected by the pollution levels, some individuals, particularly those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.

Westminster shown during high levels of pollution in February 2013 (Photo: Simon Birkett, Clean Air in London)

Westminster shown during high levels of pollution in February 2013 (Photo: Simon Birkett, Clean Air in London)

The latest air monitoring data on the Defra website at 3pm showed 27 sites across England and Wales measuring ‘high’ levels of pollution. At the same time, 40 sites were measuring ‘moderate’ levels of pollution.

One monitoring site in Sheffield also showed levels of particulate matter PM2.5 at a ‘very high’ level of 10 — which is a top-of-the-scale reading — as well as a ‘high’ reading of 8 for PM10.

Some of the highest levels of particulate matter pollution were monitored at the same time in Tyneside, York, Manchester, Liverpool, the West Midlands, Swansea and Bristol. A number of sites monitored by King’s College London in the capital on the London Air website also showed ‘high’ levels of PM2.5.

Levels of pollution across Scotland, however, have remained in the ‘low’ banding.
Air pollution levels in the UK, including particulate matter, are monitored using the index approved by the Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollution Episodes (COMEAP). This system uses a 1-10 index, with monitored levels of air pollution from 1-3 considered ‘low’, 4-6 ‘moderate’, 7-9 ‘high’ and pollution levels reaching 10 considered ‘very high’.


The high levels of particulate matter are due to dry and still weather conditions heightening local pollution, especially near busy roads, and pollution blown over from Europe and the Sahara, according to Defra.

The Defra daily forecast for today indicated that particulate matter pollution was likely to spread northwards during the course of the day.

However, pollution levels are expected to decrease tomorrow and return to a low level by Thursday due to unsettled weather, patchy rain and stronger winds arriving from the south west.

The advice on the Defra website for today’s high levels of air pollution states: “We encourage people to take sensible precautions based on the levels of air pollution in their region and their health, such as reducing or avoiding strenuous activity and ensuring they have access to their usual medication, such as asthma inhalers.”

A similar particulate matter episode was also measured by Defra across the UK on February 19, while there have also been several pollution episodes since the start of January in London (see story).

More information and daily forecasts on air pollution in the UK is available on the Defra website.


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