​ ​South East England, including Northamptonshire, braces itself for extreme air pollution levels

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ChimneyThe South East of England, including Northamptonshire, is expected to suffer from very extreme levels of air pollution this Friday.

According to the the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs website which is only operating with a holding page after yesterdays hack by Islamist hackers, there will be “very high pollution levels for a time in the far southeast of England, due to a flow from the south”.

Warm, still conditions are expected to combine with traffic fumes, pollution from the continent and Saharan dust from the south as it rises to level 10.

Much of the South East and eastern England will see high levels of pollution, although the problem is expected to be short-lived.

Defra said overnight Atlantic winds will disperse polluted air by Saturday.

In areas experiencing very high levels of air pollution, adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems and older people are advised to avoid strenuous activity.

People are also advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outside, and asthma sufferers may need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

In Eastbourne pollution levels are predicted to be so bad that the Met Office colour scale was broken as the air quality index prediction hit 10/10.

Experts have recently suggested that the death toll from air pollution, usually put at around 29,000 a year in the UK, could be substantially higher because of the effect of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), emitted during fossil fuel burning, which up until now has not been taken into account.

Keith Taylor Green MEP for South East England said:

“After yesterday’s hacking of the DEFRA website it is very worrying that all Government monitors are offline as we head into a very high air pollution episode.

Air pollution is a deadly serious problem as it causes serious heart and lung problems and is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year in the UK. Whoever forms the next Government one of the first things they must do is to urgently address this public health crisis that currently only seems to be getting worse”

Healthy people tend to notice air pollution as a dry throat, sore eyes or a tickly cough.

But it can have a more serious impact on health by being the trigger for a heart attack or by making asthma worse.

Even low levels of air pollution can harm the health of people who are particularly sensitive.

But on Friday pollution will hit “level 10” or “very high” – the highest category of air pollution in the UK.

It does not mean people need to stay indoors.

But it is the only category of air pollution at which at-risk people – those with heart or lung problems and the elderly – are told to completely avoid strenuous physical activity.

Even healthy people are told to cut down on the amount of physical exertion.

However, the pollution will be brief and levels will drop to low/moderate by Saturday.

People are also advised to avoid busy roads and those who carry a reliever inhaler should always have it with them.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “This latest high air pollution episode, coming so soon after the last, is troubling, and could again put people living with respiratory conditions at risk of worsening symptoms.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “This is expected to clear on Saturday and pollution levels will return to low throughout the morning.”

A case brought by environmental lawyers Client Earth against the government over levels of air pollution that breach European Union rules is shortly to return to the Supreme Court.

Philip Insall, director of health for cycling charity Sustrans, described the state of air pollution in Britain as “criminal” and a “national embarrassment”.

He said: “The next government will need to get a grip on air pollution.

“That will mean serious, dedicated investment and an effective programme of action to help more people out of their cars and choosing walking and cycling for short journeys.”

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