Moderate levels of air pollution (particulate matter) are forecast across Northern Ireland today, with locally high levels possible in urban areas.
Heightened pollution levels are likely to persist until Wednesday, with the situation improving from Thursday onwards.
These pollution levels are the result of the weather conditions we are currently experiencing, with light winds, which can lead to the build-up of local emissions from vehicles and home heating. There may also be a more widespread component of pollution from continental sources and Saharan dust.
During periods of High Air Pollution the symptoms of people with lung or heart disease may worsen. Healthy people are unlikely to experience any ill effects.
Hourly updates on levels of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide are available on the Air quality in Northern Ireland website or via the Department’s freephone helpline on: 0800 556 677, which also offers health advice to those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution.
Notes to editors:
1. High air pollution forecast for Northern Ireland
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.
In addition to the sources of air quality information described in the press release, the information and the air pollution forecast is also sent by e-mail, free of charge, every day to a variety of outlets including regional and national newspapers, television and radio stations, environmental groups, district councils, and international organisations. If you would like to be added to this individual service, ring the Government's contractors at Ricardo-AEA - Paul Willis on: 0870 190 6602.
2. Health Advice
The Following advice on health applies when air pollution is “high” or “very high”.
While most people will not be affected by short term peaks in air pollution, some people - particularly vulnerable groups such as those with existing heart or lung conditions - may experience increased symptoms. 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.
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.
3. Presentation of the information
When air pollution levels are presented to the public, an overall summary is provided followed by pollutant specific information. When the overall summary is presented for each region, levels of air pollution are described as those occurring in the highest band for any individual pollutant. For example, if levels of all pollutants in a region were low, with the exception of one pollutant that was high, then in the overall summary the air pollution for that region would be described as "high."
4. Action individuals can take to reduce pollution
We can all contribute to reducing the current high levels by avoiding burning solid fuels if possible, by burning only smokeless fuels in smoke control areas. It is also important to avoid lighting bonfires while pollution levels are high.
Road vehicles are a major source of many pollutants in urban areas. Before using your car ask yourself - do I really need to make this journey? Do I really need to use the car, or could I walk or cycle?
If you must drive, switch off the engine if you expect to be stationary for more than a couple of minutes, and drive smoothly - it will save you fuel and money and you will emit less pollution.
6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.