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April 4th 2014 BBC News 

Unprecedented levels

The Met Office took over pollution forecasts on 1 April. They have a huge influence over broadcasters as a data provider and suddenly it was all over our screens.

Compare that to the high pollution readings just two weeks ago which got very little coverage.

Timothy Baker, of King's College London, told The Independent: "The Met Office has taken over and been leading its TV weather forecasts with pollution. Overnight this has pushed public awareness of pollution up to unprecedented levels - the only time it came close was in the 2003 heat wave."

Another point is that air quality campaigners also say the Saharan dust is a red herring and actually most of the pollution during the episode was man-made.

They're quoting sources that say just 5% of the pollution actually came from the Saharan dust itself. The official scientific breakdown of the dust's contribution will take longer to emerge.

'Natural phenomenon'

Environmental lawyers Client Earth though said: "The prime minister's remarks that the smog is a 'natural phenomenon' was at best shamefully ignorant, at worst downright dishonest.


"The smog that is choking large swathes of the country is the result of man-made pollution, much of it home-grown traffic fumes."

The lawyers added: "Having already been found by the Supreme Court to have failed to protect us from harmful air pollution, the very least our government can do is be honest about the problem so we can take steps to protect ourselves and our families.

"Instead of making excuses, we need a plan to rid our towns and cities of diesel fumes. Boris's idea of an ultra low emission zone is the way forward but it needs to be bigger and happen sooner. Downing Street must back Boris on this one."

There are now whispers of a similar campaign to that of the cyclists during the last mayoral elections. The cycling lobby, with help from The Times, obtained policy change and segregated lanes by getting all the candidates to back their plan.

Clean air campaigners certainly hope this dust is a game changer and has raised the profile of poor air quality.

Whether it leads to changes in government and mayoral policy now depends on political will and a considerable financial outlay to speed up the shift away from polluting vehicles. Will it happen?

(c) BBC, Client Earth , Met Office, Kings College, Tom Edwards BBC : read whole report at www.bbc.co.uk/news