POLLUTION in North Devon has been recorded as moderate by Defra this morning, but it could rise as the Government issues health warnings about it hitting high levels across England again later.
Dust blown over from the Sahara Desert in North Africa mixed with local emissions and pollution from the continent saw levels hit the maximum of 10 in parts of England yesterday.
The Department for Environment and Rural affairs’ (Defra) forecast shows that the northernmost points of North Devon are experiencing grade four out of a possible 10 on Defra’s 10-point scale, while central North Devon areas are at level five.
Both of these ‘Index Bands’ shown on the Defra website’s air pollution forecast put North Devon in the ‘Moderate’ category – encompassing bands four to six – above the low pollution risk band but below the high or very high numbers.
Levels in North Devon were recorded at Index Band five this morning, but it is feared areas where levels are currently moderate could rise to highs of eight or nine later in the day.
The pollution is a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the world’s hottest desert, the Sahara, which covers most of North Africa.
Dust and sand particles from the Sahara can be swept up by high winds and carried thousands of miles across the globe.
Defra advises that at-risk individuals, such as adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.
It goes on: “Adults and children with heart or lung problems are at greater risk of symptoms and are advised to follow their doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing their condition.
“People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.
“Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors".
It adds: “It is possible that very sensitive individuals may experience health effects even on Low air pollution days.”
But the general population is advised to “enjoy your usual outdoor activities”, according to the website.
A Defra spokesman said: "The high level of air pollution this week is due to a combination of local emissions, light winds, pollution from the continent and dust blown over from the Sahara.
"We want to keep improving air quality and have introduced a new five-day forecast service in addition to investing heavily in local and transport initiatives to tackle this issue head-on."