Northern Ireland news

Air pollution health warnings in Belfast and Derry

High levels of air pollution are being monitored in Belfast city centre
Gareth McKeown

A health warning has been issued after high levels of air pollution were recorded in both Belfast and Derry city centres.

The high levels of pollution are believed to be as a result of sources such as road vehicles and home heating emissions combined with cold, calm weather conditions in which pollutants are not being dispersed.

Moderate levels are being monitored in some other urban centres across Northern Ireland and it is likely that we will continue to see these elevated levels for as long as the current cold, calm weather persists.

Air pollution is described as low (1-3), moderate (4-6), high (7-9) or Very High (10) in relation to the presence of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone.

Classifications are based upon the pollutant in the highest band based upon the advice of the independent Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution.

During periods of high pollution the symptoms of people with lung or heart disease may worsen, although healthy people are unlikely to experience any ill effects.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has offered advice to those who may be affected by the change in conditions

"If you think you may be affected by air pollution levels, you should consider modifying your treatment as you usually do when symptoms increase and, consult your doctor if this is not effective. You may also wish to reduce the time you spend outdoors or avoid busy, congested streets," a spokesman said.

"If you have noticed in the past that your breathing is affected during cold, calm conditions or on hot, sunny days, you should avoid strenuous outdoor activity on those days and ensure that you have access to your usual medication, such as asthma inhalers. Children with asthma should be able to take part in games in the usual way, although they may need to increase their use of reliever medicines before participating. There is no need for them to stay away from school. If you suffer from a heart condition and notice a change in your symptoms, you should seek medical advice as you normally would," they added.

Hourly updates on pollution levels are available on the Department’s website: www.airqualityni.co.uk and the Department’s freephone helpline 0800 556677, which also offers health advice to those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution.

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