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Recommendations for a new air quality index have today been published by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP).
The independent committee of experts, which provides advice to Government Departments and Agencies on the potential health effects of air pollutants, has been supported through this development phase by the work of AEA's John Stedman, Knowledge Leader - UK Pollution Climate.
Commenting on the new proposals, John Stedman said:
"Air pollution has received a lot of attention recently following the volcanic ash clouds and heat waves. The work of COMEAP is important for us to be able to update the index to better reflect technological and scientific advances as well as the needs of the population, ensuring we are alerted to and can deal with polluted air."
The recommendations include revising the four bands in its 10-point scale (low, moderate, high and very high) to become more stringent following the latest scientific understanding of the health effects of air pollution.
Other proposals include the removal of carbon monoxide from the index, as outdoor levels of this gas have fallen dramatically since the index was last revised in 1998, and that Particulate Matter of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5) is added to the index as concern over health effects of PM2.5 has increased since the index was last revised and EU directives now require its regulation in the UK.
The use of ‘trigger' values to provide advanced warning of likely short-term increases in air pollution which could affect health will also be put forward.
AEA recently won a £400k / 3 - year contract from Defra for the support of the index as part of its Data Dissemination Unit activities for Defra's Air Quality web site: http://uk-air.defra.gov.uk
A copy of the report can be found on the Committee's new website: www.comeap.org.uk