Environment ministers have launched the most detailed ever early warning system on air pollution in the wake of the Independent on Sunday's asthma campaign. They have set up a websitethat will provide hourly information on pollution levels in every region.

Environment ministers have launched the most detailed ever early warning system on air pollution in the wake of the Independent on Sunday's asthma campaign. They have set up a websitethat will provide hourly information on pollution levels in every region.

In a separate development, transport ministers have announced funding for initiatives to persuade parents to avoid the school run, estimated to be responsible for one fifth of all rush-hour traffic.

The moves coincide with official figures showing that air pollution rose last year, after a steep fall the year before. The new statistics show that the number of badly polluted days in towns and cities rose from 16 to 21 last year, while those in the countryside rose from 25 to 29, The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs blames the rise "mainly" on the weather.

Despite the increase, pollution in urban areas is now much lower than in 1993, the first year that comparable statistics were compiled for towns and cities.

The new air pollution website, which will be updated hourly, will report the latest levels of the five main pollutants – ozone, nitrogen dioxide sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particles emitted in smoke. It will also issue emergency alerts when pollution is high.

The transport ministry funding will secure the future of websites that encourage children and parents to walk to school. This week, 100 local authorities are expected to hold events to promote the practice.

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