Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Can't See London, Can't See France

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Can't See London, Can't See France

Article excerpt

Smog isn't new to London. Author Charles Dickens famously described the heavy haze that in his time blanketed the city as "a London particular." But when the metropolis was smothered in dense, milky smog for days in late March, it raised much alarm among its denizens. Comparisons to Beijing's chronic smog problems flew thick and fast.

The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said its air quality index had spiked to its highest, and most dangerous, level of 10 across south England, the Midlands, and East Anglia. The index is based on measurements of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone, among other pollutants.

Those with lung and heart conditions were told to avoid strenuous activity outdoors while people suffering symptoms of pollution--including sore eyes, coughs, and sore throats--were advised to cut down on outdoor activities. The culprit, apparently, was a mix of dust blowing in from the Sahara Desert, emissions from continental Europe, low southeasterly winds, and domestic pollution.

The same noxious mix of Saharan dust and urban air-pollution sources affected other parts of Europe, too. London's smog problem came just two weeks after Paris experienced a multiday air quality crisis. French officials had to take measures to discourage driving, such as making the city's vast public transportation system free, allowing only vehicles with either odd or even license plate numbers to drive on alternate days, and reducing speed limits on city streets. …

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