It’s no surprise to learn that the UK is experiencing high levels of Air Pollution this week – it’s clearly visible just by looking out the window. What is surprising is that high levels of air pollution are usually reached about five times a year.
Air Quality Index
The 10-point scale for measuring air quality is used by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with level one meaning a “low” risk of air pollution and 10 meaning “very high”.
Levels are determined by the concentration of five pollutants in the air – ozone, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and two types of particulate matter.
The high level of dust and air pollution currently being seen across much of England and Wales is said to be ‘nothing exceptional’ for the UK according experts, although the Air Quality Index hit the top level of 10 in parts of East Anglia and the South.
The Saharan dust, amongst other factors such as harmful emissions, largely from car exhausts and power plants from the UK and Europe, has pushed this particular incidence of air pollution higher up the media agenda.
Winds of more than 20mph are usually needed to sweep sand up into the atmosphere, and over the Saharan desert they have been reaching 40mph in recent weeks. If the dust rises high enough in the atmosphere and does not meet a low pressure weather system on the way, the particles can reach the UK before falling to the ground.
Air Quality Consultants
REC’s Air Quality expert, Jethro Redmore, said “The high levels of air pollution currently being experienced within the UK are largely down to natural sources.
However, this does not disguise the contribution of manmade emissions which have caused exceedences of European limits in many areas throughout the country. These can have many serious health effects and it is a challenge for the scientific community to identify effective solutions for these issues.”