Britain dealing with smog from Sahara dust

18:46, Apr 02 2014
Smog covers Canary Wharf and the O2 arena in London.
Smog covers Canary Wharf and the O2 arena in London.
Dust from the Sahara combined with pollution from mainland Europe has contributed to one of the worst smogs of the year in London.
Dust from the Sahara combined with pollution from mainland Europe has contributed to one of the worst smogs of the year in London.
Smog covers Big Ben as Londoners deal with record pollution.
Smog covers Big Ben as Londoners deal with record pollution.
Smog covers the "Gherkin" building and other towers in central London.
Smog covers the "Gherkin" building and other towers in central London.
A haze sits over the skyline of London as Sahara dust and European emissions combine to create record smog.
A haze sits over the skyline of London as Sahara dust and European emissions combine to create record smog.

British authorities are warning people with heart or lung conditions to avoid exertion as a combination of European emissions and Sahara dust create a "perfect storm" of pollution that has blanketed the country in smog.

The environment department said air pollution in some areas reached the top rung on its 10-point scale.

The department said the smog was caused by pollution from Britain and industrialised areas of the continent - trapped in place because of light winds - mixing with dust blown up from a storm in the Sahara desert.

Many motorists across England awoke this week to find cars covered in a film of red dust left by overnight rain.

Paul Cosford of Public Health England told the BBC that people with heart or respiratory problems should "reduce the amount of strenuous exercise outdoors over the next few days."

Experts said Britain's smog was the result of an unusual combination of factors. Helen Dacre, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, said conditions had conspired "to create a 'perfect storm' for air pollution."

"Toxic gases, such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, as well as fine dust particles in the air blown in from the Sahara and from burning fossil fuels, all contribute to cause problems for people with heart, lung and breathing problems, such as asthma," she said.

Despite efforts to make industry and automobiles cleaner, air pollution remains a major problem in Britain and across Europe.

Last month, Paris took the drastic step of banning half the city's cars from the roads for a day after a week in which pollution levels exceeded those in notoriously smoggy cities including Beijing and Delhi.

The World Health Organisation said last week that air pollution is the world's single biggest environmental health risk, responsible for about one in eight deaths.

The WHO said air pollution kills about seven million people worldwide every year, with more than half of the fatalities due to fumes from indoor stoves and the rest from outdoor pollutants.

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Britain smog
SHORT OF BREATH: A cyclist adjust his protective mask while riding through central London. The British capital is dealing with increased air pollution due to industrial pollution and dust from a Sahara storm.

AP