Air quality warnings attacked as too little, too late

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Government air quality warnings were yesterday attacked for spreading "confusion and alarm" among asthma sufferers.

The attack came as it was predicted that thunder storms sweeping across Britain in the next few days would cause an outbreak in asthma problems.

"The country should be placed on asthma alert over the next few days," said Dr Malcolm Green, president of the British Lung Foundation.

Melinda Letts, chief executive of the National Asthma Campaign, said the air quality warnings were "too little and too late".

"Telling people that air quality is 'poor' or that there will be 'high levels of ozone' only serves to confuse and alarm many people with breathing difficulties. The announcements need to be made in such a way that people with asthma know how to interpret them.

"If regular, usable bulletins can be given for pollen levels, why can't they be given for air quality?"

Last summer, storms coming shortly after a spell of hot weather coincided with the year's biggest asthma epidemic, with some hospitals recording a ten-fold increase in admissions.

Dr Martyn Partridge, the NAC's chief medical adviser, said yesterday: "People with asthma should be aware that thunder storms could trigger their asthma symptoms and not hesitate to contact their doctor if they are having any problems at all. They should keep a close eye on their condition, taking regular peak flow readings and, if necessary, increase their dose of preventative medication in consultation with their doctor."

People with lung conditions were advised not to over-exercise during the heat of the day.

Weather, Section Two,page 25