The country celebrated bonfire night last week with garden displays up and down the country and despite the lack of large-scale events, air pollution still reached dangerously high levels, Air Quality News analysis has revealed.
Air Quality News analysed data from the Air Quality Index (AQIN) and found that on bonfire night daily average particulate matter (PM2.5) levels increased in every major city in England.
London saw the biggest increase in air pollution, on 4 November daily average PM2.5 levels were 48µg/m3, in just 48 hours this figure had almost tripled to a shocking 133µg/m3.
Leeds also saw a dramatic spike air pollution levels, in just 48 hours PM2.5 levels had increased by 71µg/m3.
In Birmingham, a similar picture was found, on 4 November PM2.5 measured in at 24µg/m3, by 6 November this figure had more than tripled to 87µg/m3 and on the 7 November, PM2.5 levels reached a peak of 178µg/m3.
This level of particulate matter pollution is considered to be ‘unhealthy’ – meaning that everyone may begin to experience health effects.
Bonfires and firework explosions generate large, dense smoke plumes which can result in increased emissions of air pollution.
These air pollutions typically include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5).
The AQIN advises that at this level, active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
This level of pollution was even higher than on the same day in Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world, where air pollution reached a daily average of 90µg/m3.
Harriet Edwards, senior policy and projects manager for Air Quality, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘It’s not uncommon to see fluctuations in pollution levels around bonfire night, particularly where pollution is already high so can take longer to disperse.
‘We know anecdotally that firework sales were higher this year due to there being no public displays which added to the problem in residential areas as more people took to having displays in their back gardens.
‘Whilst fireworks, which are enjoyed by many, make a relatively small and short-term contribution to air pollution when compared to other sources such as traffic emissions, the sudden spikes can be harmful to people with lung conditions. Fumes can travel long distances and can irritate people’s airways whilst excess smoke can also trigger more severe symptoms, such as asthma attacks.’
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