Londoners told to reduce outdoor exercise today due to high pollution levels

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A runner wrapped up warm against freezing cold temperatures outside Richmond Park in London (PA)
A runner wrapped up warm against freezing cold temperatures outside Richmond Park in London (PA)

Londoners should avoid doing any strenuous physical activity on Friday due to pollution levels soaring in the capital.

The government’s UK Air website was last night forecasting a rare episode of “very high” pollution ranked 10 out of 10 for potential harm, although Defra revised this down to eight out of 10 on the index on Friday morning.

The top ranking would have been the most severe since March 2018.

The warning over the high pollution levels on Friday comes with a warning for adults and children with lung problems to avoid any “strenuous physical activity”.

The poor air quality is reportedly down to an intense region of high pressure covering western Europe. The pressure is causing a lack of air movement meaning that vehicle emissions and other pollutants cannot be blown away.

Adults with health problems and older people are also told to avoid exercising and people with asthma have been warned that they may need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

Everyone else is advised to “reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat”.

Under these conditions, the government advises that vulnerable people reduce “strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors”. For the general population, anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing their activity.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said: “Londoners are literally stewing in their own juice with our own fumes trapped in still air for days. It is a stark reminder of how much we need to reduce building emissions as well as traffic emissions. Please do not burn wood on Friday!”

Only two days ago, London mayor Sadiq Khan said that the capital was facing a crisis of “filthy air and gridlocked roads” unless car use is reduced.

Recent figures show that car usage in the city is close to pre-pandemic levels.

“Whilst we have made huge strides in increasing walking and cycling in London throughout the pandemic, car use has remained consistently high,” Mr Khan said. “If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future, we will replace one public health crisis with another - caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.”

Air pollution in urban areas around the world contributed to 1.8 million excess deaths in 2019, according to research published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

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