Motorists given smog warning

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The Government yesterday urged motorists not to take to the roads this weekend, if they drive cars not fitted with catalytic converters, because a massive cloud of "ozone smog" was expected to cover much of the country.

The official advice affects nearly all cars with a registration letter before L. It adds that no one should use their cars for journeys of less than 1.5 miles.

The build-up of smog has been caused a combination of still air, intense sunshine and pollution from traffic, power stations and industry. Forecasters said this smog, the second of the month, would be almost entirely due to home-grown pollution, with little contribution from the rest of Europe.

In New Zealand, the widening of the hole in the ozone layer over the southern hemisphere has had an unexpected side-effect: a large number of pets with tattoos.

Vets, alarmed at the rising incidence of skin cancer in animals noticed that dark-skinned pets were less likely to suffer. Solution: to give added protection to pale-skinned cats and dogs via the tattooist's needle. Thousands of animal-lovers have been attempting to protect their pets from ultra- violet rays, by tattooing them black.

In the treatment, a dark pigment is applied to cats' and dogs' ears and noses - the areas where there is poor hair cover. Other pale-skinned animals such as cattle and sheep, are also prone to cancer from exposure to increased radiation but they do not get preventive tattooing. "If they get tumours, we just shoot them," a vet said. "They have lower companionship value."

Unfortunately, scientists are now divided about the value of the treatment. Allan Bell, an animal dermatologist, says that he has now stopped tattooing. The only way to prevent a pet from getting skin cancer, he argues - especially since smearing on sun-block is not entirely practicable - is to persuade cats and dogs to stay out of the sun. This, however, is difficult. "Cats insist on basking in the sun," said one vet."They regard it as an essential part of their lifestyle."