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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Smog alert stepped up: Air pollution gets worse as the country basks in the hottest Easter weekend EVER

By Emily Andrews

-Soot, dust and dirt particles massing in dangerous levels over UK
-Temperatures set to reach 26C, making it the hottest Easter on record

On the left, you can't see... St. Paul's Cathedral is barely visible through the smog on the London skyline as potentially dangerous levels of air pollution hit the capital over Easter in this picture taken at around 7.30am yesterday

The smog health risk was raised yesterday as air pollution levels rose even higher.

As dawn broke over Britain’s cities, the dense smog, full of irritating pollutants, could be seen hanging in the air.

The Government raised the warning to ‘high’ for most of south, east and central England as glorious sunshine and still conditions prevented any dispersal of the tiny particles of soot, dust, dirt and liquid nitrogen dioxide.

In daylight: The combination of hot weather and still conditions brought on by the current high pressure system means levels of ozone and polluting particles known as PM10s, which can affect people's health, are expected to increase

Sunny day, cloudy view: The smog covering central London as seen from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath in north London

Hope it's not like this next week: Westminster Abbey is shrouded in smog and early morning sunlight

No getting away from it: Smog coats the centre of Manchester

The unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures reaching 79f (26c) in central London yesterday, means that Britain is on course for the hottest April on record.

Experts said the vulnerable – such as asthmatics, the elderly, young children and heart patients – would experience more difficulty breathing, and warned that long-term exposure to high pollution could cause lung cancer and heart disease.

This is the first ‘smog warning’ for two years. They are normally issued during the summer. But the prolonged dry spell caused by a high pressure system above the UK, and pollution drifting over from southern Europe, have combined to breach European safety limits.

Packed: Holidaymakers and day trippers flock to the beach at Bournemouth where temperatures hit the mid-20s

Crowded: Brighton beach bustles with sun worshippers as the Easter weekend kicks off

Not so sunny: However, the good weather left the country divided, with a thick blanket of fog over the seafront of Seaburn beach in Sunderland

Officials have advised those who experience a shortage of breath to avoid strenuous outdoor activity. Professor Warren Lenney, of the British Lung Foundation, said air pollution posed a big risk to young children because it can damage their lungs, restricting their airways and making them more prone to asthma.

The professor said: ‘We should be breathing normal healthy air with no soot, ozone or toxic nitrogen dioxide because all those things come into your airways and they produce inflammation.

'This then scars the lung tissue which results in smaller airways and can cause asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

‘The smog that we are seeing this weekend is as bad as in Dickens’s time in Victorian England.

‘Then, it would have been really bad in November due to all the industrial smoke, but today it is somewhat worse due to the car exhaust fumes.

‘The particles in the air, which are microscopically small, can be breathed in a long way down into the lungs and then they become lodged. You breathe them in, then cough trying to dislodge the irritants and this inflames the tissue.’

Smog is created when vehicle exhaust gases such as nitrogen dioxide react with the air in strong sunlight to form ozone.

While ozone in the stratosphere is benign and protects us from ultra violet rays, at ground level it is toxic and dangerous to health.

Taking a dip: Tourists cool off in the fountains outside Buckingham Palace

Bathed in sunshine: Visitors strip off and enjoy the heat in St James's Park in London

Cool kid: Four-year-old Isla Stanton waters the Bluebells in woods near Challock, Kent

Hot stuff: People enjoy the beautiful weather at Barton Marina, Staffordshire

Plain sailing: Three men enjoy the weather while using remote control sail boats at Branston Water Park in Staffordshire

It can lead to headaches, a sensation of burning eyes, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, and can also cause lung inflammation and an increased risk of heart attack.

Environmental campaigners have argued that smog levels in London in particular are routinely higher than what is acceptable under EU pollution laws.

However, there is respite on the horizon. Forecasts predict the fine weather will continue into next week for much of us but a band of cooler air and occasional showers coming in from the North-West will disperse the air pollution.

Julian Mayes, of weather forecaster MeteoGroup UK, said showers should clear by Thursday, leaving a breezy, clear day for the royal wedding bank holiday on Friday.

Water lot of fun: Children play in a fountain at the Southbank Centre in Central London. The Southbank Centre is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain with a roof-top garden, an urban beach, several art installations and a row of beach huts

We're all in this together, right?: All dressed in skinsuits, a family edges into the sea in Polzeath near Padstow



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