Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Farce As Sahara Desert Dust Hits U.K.

Saharan dust, pictured on a house window in Great Shelford, is one cause of high air pollution levels.
Advice as high levels of pollution and Saharan sand hits Cambridgeshire region: People have been advised to go easy on physical exercise as Saharan sand contributed to some of the worst air pollution the city has seen. Cambridge is experiencing the highest category of air pollution today, brought in part by sand and dust blown over from the African desert. sand and dust blown over from the Saharan desert. East Anglia and East Midlands were the two areas in the country given the maximum “very high” rating, with much of Cambridgeshire badly affected, although it is expected to subside tomorrow.

Sarah Jane Lewis has a severe form of asthma, which requires her to take 18 tablets a day, so stayed in today to bake and watch the cycling. The 46-year-old, who lives in Eaton Ford, said: “I’m not prepared to take the risk and go outside so I have made the decision to stay indoors and shut all the doors and windows. It’s like a furnace in here. It’s extreme, but at the end of the day when you have got lungs like mine it’s better to take the precautions.”

Health advice from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that when air pollution reaches the maximum level of 10, as it did in East Anglia and East Midlands yesterday, people should “reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors”, especially if they are feeling the effects of the pollution such as sore throat and wheezing.

James Nisbet plays six-a-side football at Netherhall School’s pitches on Wednesday nights and does not feel the need to change his plans. The executive manager of sports supplements supplier BSC Nutrition Ltd said: “Obviously this is a ridiculous warning and it seems that no-one has been put off playing tonight. “If anything, it just gives us an excuse for some lazy defending.”

Neil Mackay, of Mackays hardware shop in East Road, saw a business opportunity and offered a discount on face masks. He said he has seen an increase in people wanting to buy them to get the “taste of pollution” out of their mouths.  The elevated pollution levels have been caused by a combination of light south-easterly winds, which keeps local pollution close to its source, the continental air flow and dust which has blown up from the Sahara desert.

Will Morgan, a post-doctoral research associate at the Centre for Atmospheric Science at Manchester University, suggested the pollution is being driven by a “cocktail of emissions from industry and traffic emissions” from continental Europe as well as UK sources. Those suffering from the effects of high levels of pollution - including sore eyes, coughs and sore throats - should cut down the amount of activity they take outside, advice from Public Health England (PHE), Asthma UK and Defra says.

It adds that asthmatics might need to use their blue reliever inhalers more often as they could be prone to attacks today and over the next few days. Other people with lung and heart problems, and those who are older, should also avoid strenuous exercise or activity. Paul Cosford, director of health protection at PHE, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it is “clearly a serious issue”, but added it is “important that we don’t get it out of proportion”.  He said: “It’s a small number of days of very high air pollution levels. The pollution will go down towards the end of the week.

“For the vast majority of people, they will suffer no harm as a result. We may notice sore eyes, coughs, sore throats and perhaps a little bit of a wheeze if we are taking physical activity outdoors. “If that occurs, it is sensible just to reduce during these high pollution episodes the amount of physical activity.  He added: “The most important advice is for those people who are vulnerable - people who have lung disease or heart disease and particularly asthma. That’s where the advice - if you are in a very high-polluted area, to reduce the amount of strenuous physical activity that you are taking outdoors - is sensible just for these few days.”

Watch a video from the Met Office of the dust moving towards the UK below.

The skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf area in London shrouded in smog.
Pupils should stay indoors at lunch to avoid smog, says UK government adviser: Prof Frank Kelly says children should not be allowed to use playground in areas with severe pollution. Schools in areas affected by severe air pollution should keep pupils indoors at lunchtime to avoid them having asthma attacks and potentially lifelong lung damage, a key government adviser is urging. Prof Frank Kelly said children should be stopped from using the playground during school hours to reduce their exposure to the smog that is affecting south-east England and is expected to spread to the Midlands and East Anglia. Kelly is the chair of the Department of Health's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution and a member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' Air Quality Expert Group.

His advice comes after some schools in the capital decided to keep their pupils indoors on Wednesday as a precaution. Asked if that was sensible, Kelly told the Guardian: "As a general response this is a good approach as children tend to run around outside and therefore breathe deeper. Thus on days like this they will be inspiring a lot more pollution if outdoors than when they are breathing normally (hopefully) inside." The policy should apply to morning and afternoon breaks, as well as lunchtime, Kelly said. "Advice would be the same for breaktimes if pollution levels were increased at the school location." "But we can't do this forever, and in London we face the much wider problem of poor air quality every day. The Saharan dust will pass, but London will continue to fail its citizens on air quality. Children's developing lungs are at particular risk, both long- and short-term.

Dust from Sahara Desert sweeps across Cambridgeshire: Desert dust and sand from the Sahara desert has started to sweep across Cambridgeshire. Bosses at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are warning that people in the East of England and the Midlands should be prepared for “very high” levels of pollution over the next few days. The dust, which is covering cars and window houses across the UK, is as a result of a continental air flow which has travelled all the way from Africa.

Love it : ) ....

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire braced for repeat of Sahara desert dust deluge: motorists urged to carry 'sandstorm kits' - Residents who woke yesterday to find their windows and cars covered in dust blown thousands of miles from the Sahara desert have been warned to brace themselves for an even heavier deluge this morning. And this time, Hertfordshire County Council and Central Beds Council are advising rush-hour motorists and mums and dads on the school run to carry a ‘sandstorm kit’ – including buckets and spades. At the weekend, very strong winds swept up a large amount of sand from the Sahara desert in north-west Africa, around 2,000 miles away, lifting it high into the atmosphere.

It spread west over the Atlantic, got picked up by southerly winds and was pushed north over the Mediterranean and north-west Europe before arriving in Cornwall and Devon on Sunday. Overnight, it met a weather front and spread north and east, arriving in Herts and Beds on Monday morning. The sand can get caught up in rain droplets and, when the water evaporates, a thin layer of dust is left, as hundreds of motorists who spent Sunday washing and polishing their cars can testify. Paul Hutcheon, deputy chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: “We usually see this happen several times a year, particularly in summer when you get these big dust storms in the western Sahara and the southerly winds to bring that dust here.”

This morning’s forecast Saharan sandfall is expected to be even heavier and could bring with it items larger than just grains of sand, such as tiny pebbles, African litter and even camel dung. As a result, a joint high-level meeting was held late last night (Monday) involving representatives of the councils’ environmental disaster planning teams, emergency services and the NHS. Although the April sand shower is not expected to be heavy enough to pose any risk to pedestrians, they are urged to take precautions by carrying umbrellas or white lacy parasols. And a checklist has been issued for motorists, who are advised to carry the following in their vehicles:

■ a bucket and spade set (must be primary colours);
■ one of those windmill-type things we stuck in sandcastles when we were kids;
■ sandals (male drivers must have accompanying white socks);
■ flip flops; and
■ knotted handkerchief.

Highways officials at county council HQs in Hertford and the appropriately-named Chicksands are taking full advantage of the freak environmental conditions to appease disgruntled taxpayers. A spokesman for the two authorities said: “We’ll be sending out our fleets of gritting lorries to shovel all the sand that falls into the hundreds of potholes that still need repairing. “We’ve been assured that because Saharan sand is a much stronger material than that normally used by our highways repair teams, the mended holes are expected to last for at least 30 minutes.”

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