Health warning issued as smog pollution hits record levels in West Midlands

Record levels of air pollution continue to plague the nation - leaving the skyline of the West Midlands choked by a thick layer of smog.

Sahara dust Wolverhampton
Smog lingering in Wolverhampton towards Wednesfield.

These images show the scene over Wolverhampton and Birmingham, with the West Midlands cited as one of the areas expected to be worst hit.

A perfect storm of dust from the Sahara, emissions from the continent, low south-easterly winds and domestic pollution has caused air quality to plummet and the smog-like conditions are not expected to clear until tomorrow. And the high levels of air pollution have sparked a health warning.

One university expert in the Black Country today said a good bout of April showers could be the key to dispelling the large plumes of dust.

University of Wolverhampton pollution science expert Dr Clive Roberts said strong wind would also help to clear the problem.

Birmingham’s city centre skyline is hardly visible.

It comes after large parts of the country were warned to be aware of air pollution levels, which were reaching 10 out of 10 on the official scale in some places.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ranks air pollution from one to 10, with one being the lowest and 10 the highest.

Those suffering from health problems such as asthma and heart conditions were warned to limit their time outdoors. But Dr Roberts says the problems could linger until rain comes to disperse it.

“Because some of the particles are so small, they don’t settle back to earth and remain airborne causing the problems we are experiencing and the red dust that people are seeing on their cars,” he said.

“Some rain will wash the particles and pollutants out of the atmosphere and get everything back to normal. Until then, it could linger.”

Westerly winds from across the Atlantic could also help ease the problem, he added. Defra put out a warning across the country yesterday, as many woke to find a cloud of smog in the skies and a layer of red dust over cars and homes.

This was reported in some parts of Staffordshire, as well as in Bewdley.

Graphic shows the smog with the West Midlands being one of the worst hit.

And this morning pollution levels have already reached level 9 (high) in the South East, Greater London and Eastern England, Defra reported on its website.

Very high levels of pollution are also forecast later today for the East Midlands.

Those with lung and heart conditions have been told to avoid strenuous activity outdoors while people suffering symptoms of pollution – including sore eyes, coughs and sore throats – should cut down the amount they do outside, health experts said.

Asthmatics have been warned of the need to use their blue reliever inhalers more often as they could be prone to attacks over the next few days.

Some schools in London have banned pupils from outdoor playgrounds to reduce their exposure to the fog. The decision was supported by Professor Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London and a member of the Department of Health’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution, who said it would help reduce long-term harm to children.

“As a general response this is a good approach as children tend to run around outside and therefore breathe deeper,” he said.

“Thus, on days like this they will be aspiring a lot more pollution if outdoors than when they are breathing normally (hopefully) inside.”

Prof Kelly added: “Whether home-produced or arriving from the continent, the tiny particles we take into our bodies with each breath cause immediate problems for some individuals such as those with asthma and contribute to longer term problems for most of us in the form of heart disease and stroke.

“For those who are sensitive to air pollution, it’s important they are provided with accurate forecasts of when air quality will deteriorate so they can plan their activities to reduce exposure, perhaps by taking different routes to work or school or avoiding strenuous exercise on those days.

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Comments for: "Health warning issued as smog pollution hits record levels in West Midlands"


Why don't they drop the toll on the toll road and get vehicles moving. A major contribution will be diesel trucks sitting idle on the M6.

The same should go for the Dartford crossing in London where a traffic jam is needlessly created to pay a toll for a bridge that has already been paid for.


This is but a taste of what many people have to endure on a daily basis, here in the West Midlands. I'm talking about factories belching out obnoxious fumes. One such behemoth was Triplex/Sigmacast, in Tipton, whose legacy was so foul it could be seen from Google maps. This very periodical seemed to cover the issue in great detail, in order to raise awareness and report upon subsequent prosecutions (which ran into the 100's of £1000's. Thankfully the polluter has left for Eastern shores apparently, but not without significant legal wrangling. So yes, this is a dust storm, but it is temporary; what remains in Sandwell is a real, significant health issue surrounding industrial air pollution. Sandwell was polluted long before the Sahara kicked up a sand storm, and no doubt will remain this way for a long time until legislative powers are such that people no longer have to suffer at the hands of others who still to this day flaunt the law.


The smog over netherton where I work is absolutely terrible and as been all day. It almost looks like fog from the office window.

Dave W.

MORE CRAP FROM EUROPE , and a bit of African sand thrown in for good measure.