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Air pollution soars: Sheffield's air 'unhealthy' over warm weekend

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Sheffield from Bradfield on Saturday morning. Photo by Simon Temple.

Air pollution in Sheffield rose to unusually high levels during the last weekend of February, possibly due to polluted air blowing into the region from continental Europe.

According to the Air Quality Index, a sensor at Devonshire Green measured the weekend's air quality as 'unhealthy', advising that "everyone may begin to experience health effects."

"Connecting the spikes and the sources is not straightforward," Rohit Chakraborty, a PhD student at the University of Sheffield whose work focuses on air pollution, told Now Then.

"While it's speculated that particulates, especially PM2.5, have been imported by the south-easterly breeze from central Europe with some Saharan dust, the other reason is the locally generated build-up from domestic burning," he continued.

Currently, it's not possible to distinguish the locally generated pollution from the imported

Chakraborty also said that emissions from additional traffic caused by the unusually warm weather may be a factor.

The city's air quality is increasingly well monitored thanks to a growing network of volunteer sensors feeding into the European-wide Luftdaten project.

The air quality is set to improve on Thursday with a change of wind direction.

I asked Chakraborty how much of the pollution was created in Sheffield, compared to the amount that was 'imported' from Europe.

"Currently, it's not possible to distinguish the locally generated pollution from the imported," he said. "To understand the air quality we are currently developing high-resolution pollution mapping across the city.

"This robust model would then facilitate connecting the different pollution sources supporting local and national decision making."

Sheffield now has 24 volunteer air quality sensors feeding into the Luftdaten project, more than anywhere else in the UK.

Plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone in the city centre are awaiting funding approval from central government before they can be put to public consultation.

Sam Gregory

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South Sheffield sensors on Luftdaten, Sunday afternoon
by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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