Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The high humidity makes the air much more dangerous than air quality data shows
A little air pollution doesn’t mean you should cancel your escape from work on a cold winter’s night, a health expert has warned.
People who live in parts of the UK with poor air quality should be honest about their capacity to breathe and avoid larger gatherings, such as a football match, a theatre or a party, said Wilmot Hallam, an expert in public health.
However, these events need to be planned in good timescale.
The expert from King’s College London said air pollution was dangerous because it was raised by people in environments where it was a problem.
“Ultimately we should just be honest that we can’t cope with this. Our friends are telling us to go to nightclubs with car seats, with bodyboards, but if we can’t walk properly because of ozone, it’s not safe.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Round-ups need to be planned in good timescale
The health expert said the real issue was, as in the past, outside air quality, rather than the volume of pollutants coming in from new and existing sources.
An estimated 5,000 UK children aged between four and 15 will be potentially affected by outdoor air pollution levels of 35 parts per billion (ppb) or higher, according to new research by the University of Birmingham.
Two-thirds of these may not suffer breathing problems because they have good lung capacity, but will have a heightened risk of respiratory illness and an increased risk of some cancers.
Public Health England’s annual UK air quality alert was published on Wednesday and covers 34 areas.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Real air pollution figures are much worse than the government numbers suggest
It shows the number of days in a year where bad air quality is expected – in which the PM2.5 particulate matter is 1,000 times more likely to trigger a health warning than average.
Warnings should be issued when air quality deteriorates to 25ppb or worse.
“Every time you take action, you reduce the impact of the pollution,” Professor Hallam said.
“To do anything, whether it’s not wearing gloves or not going for a run in the bad weather, you need to have a strategy for how to do this.”
What to do if you are affected
Face masks – Use them while indoors to reduce the risk of exposure to fine particles and other irritants.
Wear air-filtering headscarves to protect the nose and mouth from fine particles and harmful odours.
Make sure you cover your mouth and nose when using asthma inhalers.
Avoid using face masks outdoors for more than three minutes.
Switch on the fan when leaving the house or going out to help filter particles.
Avoid outdoor activities when air quality is a priority.
Seek medical advice if you think you need to stop.
Exercise outdoors when conditions are good
Inappropriate exposure to fine particles
Excessive sunshine or strong wind can cause fine particles to disperse quickly.
Avoid outdoor activities when there are fewer than 10 people
Avoid any prolonged indoor activity