As UK temperatures spike, so does toxic air pollution

As UK temperatures spike, so does toxic pollution

Air pollution in the UK will be at dangerous levels as temperatures hit this year’s peak so far.

The mercury had reached 30.2°C at 11:30 am today in St James’ Park, London, making it the hottest day of the year.

Certain pollutants react with sunlight to create ozone, a toxic gas that causes respiratory complications. Ozone levels are forecast to be ‘moderate to high’ this week – constituting a serious health risk.

But the government does not do enough to promote public awareness of the risk and it goes under-reported.

What’s being done to stop these air pollution events?

The UK is under pressure from ClientEarth and other campaign groups to create a new, modernised Clean Air Act. This comes just as the EU has finalised new rules which aim to limit five major pollutants, including two that react to form ozone in sunny conditions.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “This is a timely reminder that air pollution does not respect national borders, so it’s essential we continue to work closely with our European partners to reduce emissions. The UK must commit to meeting its new pollution limits as soon as possible, regardless of our future relationship with the EU.

“The government obviously cannot influence the weather, which helps create the conditions for these deadly smogs, but it can and must do far more to tackle the air pollution that causes them and warn people about the health risks. We need a new Clean Air Act which enshrines our right to breathe clean air in UK law.

“This spike in pollution is bad news for all of Western Europe, and particularly those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma.

“Without quick and appropriate action to clean up the air, incidents like these will only get more severe, and more dangerous.”

ClientEarth is taking the government back to court over its continued failure to protect people from illegal levels of air pollution in the UK. The case is set to be heard on the 18 and 19 October this year in the High Court.

According to a recent report from the Royal College of Physicians, the health impact of outdoor air pollution is equivalent to 40,000 deaths each year.

This post was updated on 21 December 2016 to better reflect research into the health impacts of air pollution. Air pollution and your health – what are the facts?

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Ellen Baker