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South African penguin chicks saved from starvation

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 8:55am

Conservationists save more than 800 endangered chicks from starvation after they are abandoned by their parents

More than 800 endangered African penguin chicks have been saved from starvation in South Africa as part of a conservation project led by the Bristol Zoological Society.

Conservationists working on the Chick Bolstering project took chicks from a number of colonies and hand-reared them to ensure their survival. Around 500 were taken into temporary captive care in November and December alone, after being identified as underweight and unwell due to abandonment by their parents during the moulting period at the end of the breeding season.

Categories: Environment

David Cameron accused of playing down role of pollution in UK smog

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 8:24am
PM is criticised after saying smog is a naturally occurring phenomenon, while Boris Johnson says it seems 'perfectly fine'

David Cameron has been accused of trying to hide the role of pollution in causing the severe smog affecting parts of the UK after he blamed the problem solely on Saharan dust, while the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said the air seemed "perfectly fine" to him.

Some ministers are claiming there is little they can do about the poor air quality, with Cameron insisting the smog is just "a naturally occurring weather phenomenon".

Categories: Environment

Red dust trail from North Africa to Europe - big picture

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 7:46am
This satellite image shows the weather system that brought red dust to the UK from the Sahara desert
Categories: Environment

Smog alert: 'very high' air pollution levels spread across England

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 7:29am

3.29pm BST

Here's a summary of today's events:

Record levels of air pollution have continued to hit the UK. Pollution levels reached level 9 early on Thursday morning in the south-east, Greater London and eastern England, the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) reported on its website. Very high levels of pollution were also forecast later on Thursday for the east midlands.

The government sent out conflicting public health information about what to do in the smog. Defra's helpline said "everyone is advised to reduce physical exertion particularly outdoor," in areas where the air pollution is rated as "very high". But Public Health England said it is only those with heart and lung conditions and old people who should avoid strenuous physical activity.

South westerly winds will not bring better conditions until Friday. Rain is forecast to wash away a cloud of Saharan dust coating more cars with a film of sand.

2.58pm BST

The government continues to send out conflicting public health information about what to do in the smog.

Defra's helpline said "everyone is advised to reduce physical exertion particularly outdoor," in areas where the air pollution is rated as "very high" (see earlier).

Where levels of air #pollution are high, those with heart/lung conditions & older people should avoid strenuous physical activity #ukair

2.45pm BST

Jenny Jones, the Green London assembly member and former deputy mayor, has accused Boris Johnson and the government of being "bystanders during a public health emergency."

In a blogpost on Left Foot Forward she said: "Both Boris Johnson and the government continue to stand idly by while millions of Londoners are exposed to pollution that can permanently damage their health."

2.25pm BST

Dave Throup, the environment agency's manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, warns that more Saharan dust is heading our way. He said rain forecast for Thursday night meant that it would be deposited on England.

Loads more Saharan dust on its way (map for 6pm today) Tonight's rain likely to deposit much of it on us! pic.twitter.com/ai0LpSSrAf

2.20pm BST

Bad air quality is primarily a result of road transport, according to the environment campaign Stephen Tindale.

In a blogpost for the Fabian Society, Tindale, who is also Labour activist, writes:

Diesel is worse than petrol for air quality (though less bad for the climate). Diesel engines can be relatively clean if well maintained. But good maintenance is not always a strong point of white van men (or indeed white van women), or of cab drivers.

Instead, cars and vans should run on electricity. That would dramatically improve air quality. It could also reduce climate pollution, if the electricity was generated by renewables, nuclear power or fossil fuels with CCS. So central and local government must use all available levers to promote electric vehicles.

2.12pm BST

Friends of the Earth has urged the government to do more to improve air quality.

Its airpollution campaigner Jenny Bates said:

We cant just rely on a change of weather or wind direction to tackle the deadly air pollution incidents which regularly hit Britain strong Government action is needed to tackle the underlying problem too.

Ministers, local authorities and the London Mayor must get much tougher on the causes of air pollution especially traffic fumes.

2.02pm BST

Schools should decide for themselves whether to keep children with asthma indoors, according to Asthma UK.

The government's clean air adviser, Professor Frank Kelly, told the Guardian that all children in polluted areas should be kept in during break time.

1.34pm BST

Online retail giant Amazon told my colleague Josh Halliday that it has seen a 15% rise in sales of its face masks.

1.32pm BST

West Midlands Ambulance Service, which covers Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, is also reporting a noticeable spike in call-outs linked to breathing problems and chest pains, PA reports.

Daily figures for calls reporting breathing or chest problems were largely level at around 460 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week.
But the corresponding figures for the first three days of this week were 547, 510 and 501.

1.14pm BST

GuardianWitness users continue to share their images and experiences of the smog. One said

"Horrible feeling of someone sitting on my chest," said Vanterhyden.

Horrible feeling of someone sitting on my chest - this is more than just dust from the Sahara this is all of Europes Pollution combined - Disgrace we are destroying the planet like this

Sent via GuardianWitness

3 April 2014, 9:20

12.36pm BST

More than 80% of Asthma sufferers have reported using their inhalers more than usual in the last two days, according to a snap poll by Asthma UK.

It also showed that 30% of respondents have had an asthma attack as a result of the pollution, and more than half of people said they had avoided going outside.

So far 30% have said theyve had an asthma attack because of the current air pollution. pic.twitter.com/Lcm7sckQ7a

This new data demonstrates that the current high levels of air pollution are having a significant impact on the health and quality of life of people with asthma and that they need to take urgent action to stay safe. Asthma can be very serious, it takes the lives of three people every day so we want to do everything we can to help people minimise their risk of a potentially life threatening attack.

We suggest that people keep an eye on their symptoms and know what to do in an asthma attack. You know youre having an asthma attack if your reliever isn't helping, your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest) or you're too breathless or its difficult to speak, eat or sleep. Children may complain of a tummy ache.

12.22pm BST

The London Ambulance Service saw a 14% rise in 999 calls for patients with breathing problems yesterday, according to PA.

The service said it is still experiencing higher volumes of calls for people with breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.

12.17pm BST

Before we get too alarmed by the current smog alert it is worth remembering how bad it got in the Great Smog of 1952.

The week-long pea-souper caused the deaths of at least 4,000 people, and eventually led to the Clean Air Act.

Out and about in London? Follow the lead of this policeman taking precautions in The Great #Smog of 1952? Be safe! pic.twitter.com/3UTM4q7Ecc

11.48am BST

Pharmacists are reporting an increase in customers reporting breathing problems, according to the chain LloydsPharmacy.

Anthea Lacey, one of its pharmacist at Virginia Water in Surrey, said:

Weve seen lots of people presenting with symptoms related to the smog cloud. As well as those experiencing breathing difficulties, weve had customers come in with inflamed eyes, which I suspect is from the sand.

In particular, weve had people with chronic asthma in need of support - we have helped them with an asthma check-up, where we can make sure they are using their inhalers effectively. If anyone is worried or experiencing symptoms that they think may be related to the smog, they can speak to their local pharmacist for support.

11.32am BST

A government helpline is advising "everyone" to cut down on physical exertion in areas hit by "very high" levels of air pollution.

The advice is part of a robotic sounding helpline set up by the government about smog levels and how it may affect health.

10.47am BST

The Guardian's environment commentator, George Monbiot, is one of the many people who feel they are suffering because of the smog.

Woke feeling awful: sore throat, tight chest. 1st time I've been conscious of direct effects of pollution. How are the rest of you doing?

10.37am BST

People who are experiencing breathing problems are being urged to call a helpline set up by the British Lung Foundation.

Anyone who is experiencing breathing problems due to the high pollution levels can call the BLF helpline for advice on 03000 030 555. Pls RT

Today in one of our group meetings a number of people were already reporting that they were feeling under the weather, including myself. We couldnt nail down a particular illness but we were feeling more breathless than usual. This made a lot more sense today when I found out that pollution levels had been on the increase.

The medical advice is that it can take a while for pollution to have an impact a persons health so if this was what we were feeling like yesterday when the pollution wasnt as bad, Im worried about what the impact it will be later in the week, once the impact of today has really taken hold. Already were worried to go outside the house.

10.13am BST

Deputy prime minister appears to be taking the smog problem more seriously than his coalition partner, writes Peter Walker.

Nick Clegg was asked about the smog on his weekly LBC radio phone in, Call Clegg. Slightly oddly, his co-host Nick Ferrari introduced the issue with the caveat, Obviously, we cant blame the government for this, something others might disagree with.

Clegg said his youngest son, Miguel, had been up much of the night coughing, though he did not know if this was smog-related. He said:

10.09am BST

The Green Party has accused David Cameron of trying to shirk responsibility for the smog by blaming the problem on natural causes.

In his interview with BBC Breakfast the prime minister described the smog as a "naturally occurring weather phenomenon".

In the last 10 years nearly 300,000 people have died because of air pollution in the UK, thats the equivalent of a city the size of Newcastle.

Yet, despite the ongoing threat of air pollution and the fact that the EU is taking legal proceedings against the UK on this issue, the Prime Minister has the audacity to lay the entire blame for the smog on Saharan dust.

9.21am BST

The areas worst hit so far by pollution are the south-east and London, according to the latest data from a 130 monitoring sites released by Defra.

"Very high" levels were recorded in both regions. The worst of the poor air is forecast to hit East Anglia and parts of the Midlands today.

9.04am BST

8.53am BST

It is difficult to tell whether dust on cars in the UK comes all the way from the Sahara desert or just a nearby building site.

But there's a lot of it about.

A little bit of #desert in #leamington this morning pic.twitter.com/hma9qQepM0

When, as has happened this week, all three factors coincide, the outcome is a "perfect storm" for air pollution, says Helen Dacre, a meteorologist at Reading University.

First, emissions from British traffic and industry have steadily built up in the air. Then gentle easterly winds have brought more pollution from the industrial centres of continental Europe. To make matters worse the dust that has blown in from the Sahara has been whipped up by a storm that produced gale force winds in north Africa.

8.39am BST

It is not just England that is being hit by smog. As the corner of that Met Office map shows air pollution is also hitting Holland and Belgium.

Here's the view in Amsterdam:

#smog in Amsterdam pic.twitter.com/LfzYJEVjrm

8.29am BST

Twitter users have been sharing smog images from all over England. Here's a selection of the latest:

#smog plenty of it in Norwich this morning! Severe smog alert. The latest health advice on @Daybreak pic.twitter.com/5MwYq5sKOZ

#smog has definitely reached #Doncaster this morning. pic.twitter.com/IEr5V9TLsz

Misty in Chesterfield again!! Air pollution? #smog #airpollution #metoffice @metoffice @Daybreak @BBCNews pic.twitter.com/3yI0G0NLDT

The smog is dreadful right now over #London #smog #SaharaDust #weather pic.twitter.com/ArATiKGIkQ

#Smog #m62 #towardshuddersfield pic.twitter.com/IsZArGTcN0

@Lauratobin1 @Daybreak Much the same. Pic of @addenbrookes in the #smog @CUH_NHS pic.twitter.com/IC4SkNgbOj

8.10am BST

Here's a Met Office map of the latest smog warning.

The pollution is forecast on a scale of one to 10. The purple area shows the places that score 10 on scale where "very high" levels of air pollution are forecast. High levels of pollution are marked in shades of red from 7 to 9 on the scale.

7.57am BST

Welcome to our continuing live coverage of the smog alert in the UK as more areas of England are warned to expect "very high" levels of air pollution.

Here's a summary of the latest developments:

Health Advice: Find out the health advice associated with the UK air pollution bands at http://t.co/QXjGPSMfqu pic.twitter.com/XwEUmlPIjX

On Tuesday the Met Office forecast that there would be high or very high levels of air pollution across southern England and the Midlands yesterday.However, results from 130 monitoring sites showed that it remained low or moderate for most of the day over most of the country.

Don't expect ministers to admit this is a public health emergency. And certainly don't expect local or central government to take action, such as reducing car numbers in the streets or closing down factories. That's what the Chinese and French governments do when the air in their cities is unbreathable and their people are choking. Not us.

Categories: Environment

Scottish bird of prey colony hit by mass poisonings

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 7:00am
RSPB and ornithologists express disgust after 12 red kites are found dead in Black Isle area, targeted with lethal toxins

Bird experts believe that one of the UK's most valued bird of prey colonies is being targeted after 16 raptors were found dead from poisoning in a small area of the Highlands.

The bodies of 12 red kites and four buzzards have been recovered over the past two weeks within a two-square-mile area on the Black Isle, north of Inverness, in what ornithologists suspect is the largest mass poisoning of birds recorded.

Categories: Environment

Badger cull climbdown is a stunning and unexpected game-changer | Patrick Barkham

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 5:48am

Owen Paterson should be congratulated by scientists, activists and farmers for choosing a science-led alternative to culling

Owen Paterson complained that the badgers moved the goalposts and now the environment secretary has taken his ball home.

The abandonment of a wider roll-out of the badger cull is a stunning and unexpected game-changer. Badgers have proved harder to kill than a rare piece of conviction politics.

Categories: Environment

Earth has a fever, but the heat is sloshing into the oceans | John Abraham

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 5:30am
A new study finds that surface temperatures are a poor measurement of global warming, which continues undeterred

Much has been made about the Earth's energy imbalance (extra energy absorbed by the Earth). It is clear the Earth is out of balance, in laypersons' terms, it has a "fever". What isn't clear is how bad the fever is. A new study by Dr. Matt Palmer and Dr. Doug McNeall moves us closer to answering this "fever" question.

"My view is the net radiation at top-of-atmosphere (TOA) energy flow is the most fundamental measure of global warming since it directly represents the accumulation of excess solar energy in the Earth system. The lack of correlation between global surface temperature and TOA over ten years or so tells us that temperature trends are not a good indicator of how much energy is accumulating in the Earth system over the same period. This means that the recently observed "pause" in surface warming may tell us nothing about longer-term global climate change.

"If you want to measure global warming on timescales of about a decade, measure the temperature of the oceans. The deeper you measure, the more accurately you'll measure the warming."

Categories: Environment

Badger cull: government abandons national roll-out plans

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 4:33am
Damning independent report finds shoots were not sufficiently effective or humane

Plans to roll out the controversial badger cull pilots nationwide across England have been dropped by Owen Paterson after a damning independent report found the shoots were not effective or humane.

Categories: Environment

Exxon Mobil's response to climate change is consummate arrogance

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 4:13am

As scientists laid bare the impacts of climate change, the oil and gas giant said climate policies are highly unlikely to stop it digging up fossil fuels. So what are we going to do about it?

Continue reading...
Categories: Environment

Sahara dust smog: record pollution levels hit London and south England

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 3:01am

Warnings to stay indoors and avoid exercise as London and the south of England experience highest pollution levels ever recorded

Record levels of air pollution will continue to plague the UK, experts have warned.

Dust from the Sahara, emissions from continental Europe, low south-easterly winds and domestic pollution have caused air quality to plummet and the smog-like conditions are not expected to clear until Friday.

Categories: Environment

Scientists decode honeybee 'waggle dance'

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 2:45am

Unique form of communication allowed researchers to map the distance and location where bees foraged from month to month

Honeybees fly much longer distances in the summer than in the spring and autumn to find good sources of food, a new study has found.

Categories: Environment

Which hotels are the most bike-friendly? | Trevor Ward

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 1:00am
Of 13 hotels contacted in UK cities hosting major cycling events this year, only three were able to provide secure facilities

I recently decided to combine a night's stay in the newly opened Malmaison hotel in Dundee with a training ride, so I telephoned reception to ask if they had somewhere secure I'd be able to store my bike overnight.

Categories: Environment

English grasslands in 'catastrophic decline'

Guardian Environment News - Thu, 2014/04/03 - 12:00am
Conservationists warn wildlife-rich grasslands are vanishing due to development, farming practices or neglect

England's wildlife-rich grasslands are suffering a "catastrophic decline", conservationists have warned.

The Wildlife Trusts said remaining sites ranging from ancient meadows to roadside verges were vital habitat for bees and other wildlife, as well as helping to make soils secure, managing water, preventing flooding and storing carbon.

Categories: Environment

Social media explosion powered by dirty energy, report warns

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm
Greenpeace singles out Amazon Web Services and Twitter for siting data centres in coal areas and failing to reveal energy use

The rise of social media is being powered by dirty forms of energy such as coal, a report from the campaign group Greenpeace said on Wednesday.

The Clicking Clean report praised six companies Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace and Salesforce for committing to power their data centres with 100% renewable energy. Apple in particular had cleaned up its energy profile, Greenpeace International said.

Categories: Environment

Pupils should stay indoors at lunch to avoid smog, says UK government adviser

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm
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.

Categories: Environment

California lawmaker opens inquiry into EPAs toxic waste cleanup program

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm

US representative Anna Eshoo asks environmental agency to explain how it deals with pollution from shipping toxic waste

Toxic Trail: How a landmark cleanup program leaves its own toxic legacy

A Silicon Valley lawmaker has opened an inquiry into the toxic trail of environmental damage created by the Superfund cleanup program.

US representative Anna Eshoo requested details on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deals with the pollution thats left behind by treating and shipping toxic waste across the country and whether its looked into alternative cleanup methods.

Categories: Environment

Wildlife on your doorstep: April

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm

With spring in the air the northern hemisphere and autumn in the south, wed like to see your photos of the wildlife near you

April in Britain means spring showers and leafy trees and shrubs, in Australia it's already mid-autumn. So what sort of wildlife will we find on our doorsteps? Share your photos with us via GuardianWitness, and we'll feature our favourites on the Guardian site.

Categories: Environment

Air pollution: England and Wales hit by smog - live

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm

Maximum levels of air pollution sweep large swathes of England and Wales after powerful dust storm in the Sahara

4.27pm BST

Pupils attending schools in areas affected by severe pollution should stay indoors, a key government adviser has said.

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.

4.19pm BST

So what's the pollution outlook for tomorrow? According to Defra, the level of pollution remains high to moderate in parts of England and Wales on Thursday, as the map below shows.

3.41pm BST

A few of our commenters overseas have spoken about pollution in their area:

It is not just England and Wales, I live in south Holland and the pollution here is dreadful. I was gasping for air as I cycled into work this morning (no underlying health conditions) and there has been a permanent haze in the skyline.

I live I. Suzhou, china, the levels in the uk are pretty much a good day here. About a third of the days are over 200.

3.29pm BST

As a point of interest, our colleagues over at Comment is Free flagged up this piece from last week on clean air, which poses an interesting question:

Is clean air, along with drinkable water, becoming one of the most precious resources on the planet? Or should we reframe the question and challenge the kind of thinking that converts everything, including the very air we breathe, into economically measurable reserves and commodities?

2.59pm BST

So just where does this pinky-red dust come from? Dr Steven Godby, a drylands expert at Nottingham Trent University, thinks he has the answer:

The Sahara is the largest desert in the world and contains a number of significant dust source areas. Looking at satellite images captured last Thursday and Friday it seems the dust was generated from two source areas, one in central Algeria close to Tamanrasset and another in southern Morocco to the south of the Atlas Mountains.

To generate dust storms large numbers of silt-sized particles are needed for the wind to pick up and transport and these two areas have been identified as dust hot spots in the past.

The dust that has blown over from the Sahara and caused this mist of toxic air (which has been mixed with other pollutants from Europe on route to the UK) is largely made up of fine soil particles that are ejected into the atmosphere by the action of strong winds on the surface of the Earth. Once caught in the wind, these small particles can travel large distances before returning to the surface either via rainfall or simply under the influence of gravity.

Wind erosion of soils is particularly apparent in arid regions, where soils tend to be dry and vegetation, which can protect soil, tends to be sparse. In these regions we can see that the frequency of dust storms is changing in response to unsustainable agriculture in some parts of Africa and apparent impacts of climatic change.

2.44pm BST

Forget the smog, the Sun is out and offering to wash your dust-covered cars:

Sahara storm leaves UK carpeted in red dust, but #Sunsqueegeesquad can help! More to follow... http://t.co/eLeg4NTHrf pic.twitter.com/8sbNHik2XP

Car covered in sand? Come to our FREE car wash TODAY. Butcher Row by Limehouse Link, East London, E1W 3EP: 4pm to 5pm. #SunSqueegeeSquad

2.38pm BST

My colleague, Elena Cresci, has been sent these two pictures from readers in smog-covered parts of the country:

This photo was taken on my dog walk around Shottle Hall - Just north of Duffield in Derbyshire.

Sent via GuardianWitness

2 April 2014, 13:07

Shrewsbury disappearing into the murk; I think it has got thicker since I took this photo

Sent via GuardianWitness

2 April 2014, 13:45

1.24pm BST

David Surman, a reader whose apartment overlooks the Thames, has been in touch via GuardianWitness. His tumblr documents the changing weather outside his home.

I noticed over the past three days how the build up of air pollution was giving a distinctive yellow haze throughout the day. It's quite different from London's pleasant misty days which tend to subside throughout the afternoon. The pollution definitely accumulates over several days of still weather.

1.14pm BST

If you ever wondered how London compared to other major cities in the smog rankings, wonder no more. This comparison, by the World Health Organisation (WHO), shows that on any given day in Beijing is likely to be far more polluted than Paris. And London. And most cities in the world. Lagos being a notable exception.

1.08pm BST

My colleague Peter Walker has this on the conditions for fellow cycling enthusiasts battling the smog:

The warnings for asthmatics and the like to avoid exercise in the smog might put some people off cycling today, but if you're riding sedately then you're not necessarily exposing yourself to that much more in the way of emissions.

We ran a piece about air pollution on the Bike Blog a few weeks ago based on the work of some experts from King's College London. Interestingly, a test they did measuring smog exposure among a series of people in London over a day found a cycle courier was exposed to less black carbon (the substance they were measuring, an unpleasant particulate associated with diesel engines) than, for example, an ambulance driver sitting inside a vehicle. This was a pretty basic initial test, and of course measured exposure, not ingestion, but the academics suggested a cyclist might be helped by being constantly on the move, thus creating air flow.

Plus, of course, a trip in a city on a bike is likely to be quicker than that on a bus, reducing exposure.

As for tips for wheezy cyclists like me, the best is to cycle on minor roads if you can, where smog levels tend to be notably lower. There is some research suggesting pollution masks, rarely seen on cyclists these days, might actually do some good.

On a personal level, I could really feel the smog on my lungs cycling home through London last night. Air pollution shortens an estimated 30,000 lives in Britain each year. If that was the death toll from, say, terrorist attacks you'd think ministers might take it a bit more seriously.

12.53pm BST

The environment campaign group Friends of the Earth has called on the London mayor Boris Johnson and the government to end what it calls the "national disgrace" of air pollution in Britain.

Air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said:

Theres not much we can do to control dust from the Sahara, but the authorities could and should be doing far more to deal with the UKs contribution to this air pollution episode, particularly from road traffic emissions.

We need cleaner vehicles, a serious strategy for tackling traffic levels, including the provision of better public transport and cycling facilities, and an end to plans to build new roads.

12.12pm BST

The author Lucinda Hawksley has been in touch to describe how she was struggling with the effects of asthma on the way to work this morning:

I'm relying heavily on meds today, which I usually take very seldom, and people on the tube were giving me that wary angry look they give constant coughers - I felt like I should be wearing a sign that says 'It's not contagious, it's asthma.

I woke up early, I live in London, and felt my lungs struggling. It got better after closing the window so if other people are suffering badly they really should heed the advice and stay indoors. Having said which my asthma is mild and I'm on my way to give a lecture, albeit breathlessly.

12.09pm BST

Our picture desk has put together this gallery of the air pollution across England. The picture below was taken in Wimbledon, southwest London, this morning.

11.50am BST

Here's a reader's picture looking down the Thames and into a smog-smothered London. The Shard is barely visible in the distance.

Normally we are able to see right down the river and into the city. Today the skies are dusty and the Shard is barely visible. You can see the smog hanging over the city.

Sent via GuardianWitness

2 April 2014, 11:34

11.40am BST

I've just spoken to Leanne Stewart, from Eltham in southeast London, who described feeling breathless after a routine half a mile walk to her son's school this morning:

I've been doing the usual school run about half a mile from my house, which is usually quite an easy walk but I'm still breathless now. I could feel my chest getting tighter and tighter and my son, who's eight, had to stop and have his inhaler.

I went light-headed and had to get a bus back, it's only half a mile and I usually do it twice a day no problem.

10.50am BST

The smog appears to have claimed its first victim: the official government website for air pollution.

Readers, including discuz in the comments below, have pointed out that the Defra website for monitoring the smog appears to be struggling under the weight of traffic. (Although when we tried at 10.50am if was slowly coming back to life).

10.35am BST

The Guardian's John Vidal has written about the noxious gases that contribute to modern day air pollution and why they may even be more harmful than historical smog:

Don't kid yourself this is all to do with dust blowing in from the Sahara desert, as some commentators are suggesting. Sure, there's minute particles of dust there from the deep south but it's mixed up with much larger quantities of minute particles of homegrown exhaust fumes, brake pad linings, dust from construction sites, central heating systems and industry.

What we have in southern Britain is a dangerous smog episode produced mainly by sunlight reacting with nitrogen oxides, emitted largely by traffic, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the atmosphere. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and the result is ground-level ozone or smog. Because of the high pressure that has built up over the last few weeks, a great soup of this is now settled across Britain and parts of northern Europe.

10.23am BST

I've just spoken to Alan Andrews, one of the lawyers involved in the landmark Supreme Court case last year that ruled the UK had failed in its duty to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Andrews, a lawyer at the environmental law firm ClientEarth, is sceptical about the emphasis being put on the dust storm in the Sahara saying that the core of the current problem was generated by the UK.

This highlights the need for urgent action. It's not ideal for people to be told they can't walk around outside or take exercise. We need to build a national network of low emission zones which target diesel vehicles. And we need to tackle the problem holistically at the EU level with the UK taking a lead role in EU negotiations.

10.03am BST

Providing you can see the phone in your hand , please send us your pictures of the air pollution where you are whether its a dust-covered car or a smog-smothered walk in the park. To send in your picture, simply click on the blue Guardian Witness contribute button above.

9.39am BST

Professor Frank Kelly, of King's College London, has said that the tiny particles of pollution can cause immediate problems for some people such as those with asthma and contribute to longer term problems for most of us in the form of heart disease and stroke.

For those who are sensitive to air pollution its important they are provided with accurate forecasts of when air quality will deteriorate so they can plan their activities to reduce exposure, perhaps by taking different routes to work or school or avoiding strenuous exercise on those days.

Even those who do not feel any particular sensitivity to air pollution can benefit from such avoidance techniques but they will have to wait several decades to see the benefit.

9.09am BST

The unusually high levels of air pollution have triggered health warnings for millions of people in southern England and Wales, particularly those with heart or lung problems.

One of Britain's top medical professionals, Dr Paul Cosford, of Public Health England, was on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme earlier today. He said:

That most important advice is for those people who are vulnerable, if you're in a high pollution area, to reduce the amount of strenuous exercise outdoors over the next few days.

Carry on life as normal be aware you may need to use your inhalers more frequently but carry on your life as normal.

8.49am BST

My colleague, Mark Tran, wrote on Tuesday about the global problem of air pollution and how the current episode could bring more attention to the government's 15-year struggle to tackle the issue:

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution has become the world's single biggest environmental health risk, linked to around seven million deaths a year or nearly one in eight deaths in 2012. The figures released last month were more than double previous estimates and suggest that outdoor pollution from traffic fumes and coal-burning, and indoor pollution from wood and coal stoves, kills more people than smoking, road deaths and diabetes combined.

The UK faces fines of up to £300m a year and embarrassing court appearances after the European commission launched legal proceedings against it for failing to reduce "excessive" levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution from traffic, despite 15 years of warnings and several extensions and postponements granted to the government.

8.38am BST

Here is the latest air pollution index from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). As you can see, the worst affected areas are East Anglia and into the East Midlands, but high levels of pollution are stretching deep into England and Wales.

8.22am BST

Good morning.

People across large swaths of England and Wales have been put on high alert this morning over severe levels of air pollution smothering the south coast and several major cities.

Categories: Environment

UK smog alert: vulnerable people advised to stay indoors

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm
Warning comes as air pollution is expected to reach eight or nine on a 10-point scale in much of southern UK

Follow the latest developments on our live blog

Millions of vulnerable people in southern England and Wales were advised to stay indoors as unusually high levels of air pollution smothered London and other cities, just weeks after heavy pollution led to restrictions on car use and the offer of free public transport in Brussels and Paris.

Prof Frank Kelly of King's College London said tiny particles of pollution could cause problems for some people such as those with asthma and contribute to longer-term problems for others.

Categories: Environment

Cameron told not to appease minority of Tory MPs opposed to windfarms

Guardian Environment News - Wed, 2014/04/02 - 11:59pm
Renewable industry and green campaigners concerned prime minister is considering new controls on onshore turbines

Green campaigners urged David Cameron yesterday to stop trying to appease a minority of windfarm opponents in his party with proposals for further curbs on onshore turbines.

Supporters of wind power were alarmed after it emerged that the prime minister was considering including new controls on onshore generation in the next election manifesto, such as a cap, further cuts to subsidies, more planning restrictions or limits on noise from turbines.

Categories: Environment
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