Warning as Yorkshire hit by high levels of air pollution

The Leeds skyline. Picture by Ian Hinchliffe/ Rossparry.co.uk.
The Leeds skyline. Picture by Ian Hinchliffe/ Rossparry.co.uk.
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Yorkshire is experiencing some of the highest pollution levels in the country today, with Asthma sufferers, people with heart problems and older people being advised to “reduce physical exertion” particularly while outdoors.

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE called for “urgent action” on air pollution after Yorkshire experienced some of the highest levels the UK.

Warnings were put in place across the region today after it was identified as a hotspot for health problems as a result of exposure to dirty air.

Elderly people and those with asthma and other breathing conditions were told to avoid physical exertion outdoors and to keep track of public health advice throughout the weekend.

While the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the unusually high levels of pollutants in the air were a ‘specific weather incident’, domestic air pollution caused by traffic fumes was deemed a contributing factor.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “With periods of high pollution often resulting from a combination of domestically-produced pollution and that coming, we need urgent action from government to clean up the air we breathe.

Last April witnessed a similar smog cloud over the UK and sparked a rise in the number of calls relating to breathing difficulties to emergency services in the region.

“This latest high air pollution episode, coming so soon after the last, is troubling, and could again put people living with respiratory conditions at risk of worsening symptoms,” added Dr Woods.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Brenda Pollack pleaded with ministers to protect people’s health by acting urgently on dirty traffic.

“We need to see more walking, cycling and public transport use. This will improve health and enable us all to breathe more easily,” she said.

Early morning mist struggles to clear in the village of Rodley on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year.

Early morning mist struggles to clear in the village of Rodley on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year.

Her call was echoed by the cycling charity Sustrans.

Director Phillip Insall said: “The poor state of air pollution in Britain is both criminal and a national embarrassment.

“We know that local air pollution is causing at least 29,000 premature deaths a year and we know that it is primarily due to emissions from motor traffic. It’s clear that we can only address this by reducing reliance on motor vehicles.

“The next Government will need to get a grip on air pollution. That will mean serious, dedicated investment and an effective programme of action to help more people out of their cars and choosing walking and cycling for short journeys.”#

We need urgent action to clean up the air we breathe

Dr Penny Woods of the British Lung Foundation

Doubt has been cast over whether these incidents will become more common in the future as a result of climate change, however.

Professor Paul Seakins, from the University of Leeds’ School of Chemistry, said: “I think the fact it has happened again this year relatively soon after another similar incident has made people wonder whether it suggests significant changes in what causes pollution and the answer is that we cannot say anything from this one particular event when you need a combination of weather conditions in order to produce these things. At this stage, scientists cannot really read anything in to it.

“Long-term exposure to some of these pollutants has a significant effect on people’s health but I think one or two spikes are not going to make an awful lot of difference.”

Additionally, with summer seeming to come early for many this week, doctors have reported seeing hay-fever sufferers experiencing symptoms.

Today the country enjoyed the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures soaring to 22 degrees, making parts of it warmer than Greece and Turkey. Cooler weather is forecast today, however, and there is the possibility of showers later this afternoon.

Health advice can be found at the DEFRA website.

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