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Air Pollution

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL4219, tabled on 19 December 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice they issued to members of the public, during the air pollution episode of 29 November to 6 December, to avoid driving polluting vehicles and to use public transport, walk or cycle in the areas affected.

Answered on

3 January 2017

The Government takes its responsibility for informing members of the public about air pollution events very seriously. The Government-funded website, UK-AIR, makes available a five day forecast from the Met Office on predicted air pollution levels across the United Kingdom, allowing members of the public to take action. This information is available on the Met Office website alongside the weather forecast. Members of the public or other organisations may also sign up to email bulletins via UK-AIR which provide timely information, including the air pollution forecast and latest monitoring information directly to subscribers when they need it.

Defra has developed a multi-agency response group to be convened in the event of any air pollution event. This group comprises representatives from Defra, the Department of Health, Public Health England, the Met Office and Devolved Administrations. This group decides on the severity of the event, appropriate escalation and communication to ensure that consistent, evidence based key messages reach the public quickly.

Between the 29 November and 6 December 2016 the group convened on three occasions at 10.15am each morning. As part of the agreed agenda a communications approach was discussed and agreed between all attendees. During the three events Defra issued proactive tweets on Twitter referring to the health advice, which was then re-tweeted by Public Health England. Defra took steps to inform the health charity network, which includes Asthma UK and the British Heart Foundation who work directly with vulnerable groups.