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What is an air pollution alert as London put under ‘very high’ level

Freezing fog has trapped pollution, sending levels skyrocketing and posing a risk to health (Picture: Getty Images)

The cold, foggy weather triggered an air pollution warning from London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan at the weekend as levels skyrocketed – and ‘pockets’ of pollution are expected to continue.

Levels are currently showing as ‘very high’ in Greater London, according to the Defra website.

Emissions from cars and vans burning fossil fuels are being trapped by the freezing fog and cold weather – one reason why the Mayor is controversially expanding London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) across all London boroughs in August.

So what is an air pollution alert and what should do you to keep yourself and loved ones safe?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Check the current air pollution in your area

Air pollution alerts are sent when levels rise high enough to affect health.

You can find out what the current levels of air pollution are in your area here, and many weather apps on your phone and other devices will tell you.

They’re based on Defra’s Daily Air Quality Index which is calculated using levels of five pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and different sizes of particles.

Pollution is a threat to health and the planet (Picture: Getty Images)

Air pollution alerts are issued by Defra when these levels exceed certain thresholds.

What should I do when air pollution rises and should I exercise?

Workouts might need to be scaled back due to higher levels of air pollution (Picture: Getty)

The Met Office stresses that in the UK, ‘nobody need fear going outdoors’. But the action you should take depends on your health.

There are precautions you can take, especially if you are in ‘at risk’ group – this includes any adults and children with heart or lung problems.

When air pollution is low

The message for everyone is simple when levels are between one and three is ‘enjoy your usual activities’.

It is possible that people who are very sensitive to air pollution could experience symptoms even on ‘low’ rated days.

These can include a tickly cough, sore or dry throat, and sore eyes – and reducing strenuous activity outside will help ease them.

When air pollution is moderate

Once pollution rises to between four and six, most people don’t need to do anything.

Anyone in an at-risk group should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors, according to the Met Office.

When air pollution is high

Exhaust fumes are being trapped by the freezing fog and cold weather (Credits: Getty Images)

If air pollution reaches levels seven through nine, anyone experiencing discomfort, such as sore eyes or throat and a cough, should consider cutting back on strenuous outdoor activities, especially outside.

Those in the high-risk group should definitely reduce strenuous activity, and older people should take care not to exert themselves.

When air pollution is very high

Once we’re up at level 10, everyone not in the high-risk groups should reduce strenuous physical activities, especially if they have symptoms.

Those who are at higher risk, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical exertion.

If you have asthma, you may find you need to use your inhaler more often when air pollution reaches very high levels.

Asthma may flare up during very high levels of pollution (Picture: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra)

What about athletes?

When levels of ground-level ozone are high, some athletes may find they can’t perform as well as usual, and breathing in deeply may cause chest discomfort.

This tends to happen in the summer and – while it isn’t dangerous – it’s ‘sensible’ to limit physical activities while experiencing symptoms.

Map reveals how ULEZ will expand across London – is your area affected?

MORE : Are you a midnight snacker? You could be suffering with Night Eating Syndrome

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