The invisibility of modern air pollution gives the impression that air pollution problems are a thing of the past. Today is it rare to see persistent black smoke from a factory chimney or clouds of thick black smoke from traffic. This February provided some good opportunities to see air pollution directly, if you knew where and when to look.
Easterly winds brought cold, polluted air from Europe to the UK. The worst conditions were measured on 19th February in the Midlands, in Birmingham and Nottingham, across Yorkshire and London. This pollution was composed of many tiny particles a few thousandths of a millimetre across. These particles can penetrate deep into our lungs and due to their size they are also effective at scattering light, creating a blue-white haze.
This haze was obvious when looking towards the horizon in the winter sunshine, reducing visibility to a couple of kilometres. Workers in offices in the City of London were also able to look out on a brown haze below caused by air pollution; mainly nitrogen dioxide and particles from traffic exhaust fumes, trapped in a cold air layer close to the ground.
Another place to see air pollution is in our health statistics. More people die and get admitted to hospital on days with high air pollution. People living in polluted places live shorter lives with air pollution contributing to an average six months loss of life expectancy for each of us in the UK.
via Pollutionwatch: Invisibility of pollution implies such problems are past | Environment | The Guardian.