Suburban residents are using lockdown to revamp their gardens – and creating a pollution surge by burning the rubbish.
Backyard bonfires burning off wood and waste have caused a spike in air pollution in South-east London, bucking trends seen in cities across the country.
Air quality has already started to improve after lockdown was imposed on March 23.
But air quality monitors have captured rapid jumps in levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles of pollution such as pollen and dust – since Monday in Bromley.
The increase in bonfires has come partly from residents burning off recyclable waste as collection services are hit by staff self-isolating due to the virus.
Levels of PM2.5 were 9.5 micrograms per cubic metre at lockdown, according to an Orpington air quality monitoring station.
This steadily increased through the week – up to 17 on Wednesday of last week, 22 on Thursday, and 24.8 on Friday.
The European Union’s recommended limit for levels of PM2.5 is 20, while the World Health Organisation’s is just 10.
Pollution from across the channel – combined with pollutants not being dispersed in the calm, still air – contributed to the jumps.
Bromley council suspended home recycling collection, as staff absences start to bite the service.
In a statement put out by Bromley Town’s Conservative councillors, they confirmed up to 35 per cent of staff making up the authority’s bin collection workforce are self-isolating because they either have coronavirus symptoms or are living with vulnerable people.
“Please don’t start a bonfire – nuisance bonfires remain banned,” the ward members added in a post on their ward Facebook page.
Independent air monitor Tim Webb said: “The problem with bonfires is you’re talking about all types of pollutants going in the air from the combustion process.
“Once pollution rates go up, they take a very long time to go back down.
“The problem is this is a source of pollution and these particles don’t stay trapped in your garden, they can travel – if your neighbours have got respiratory conditions, something like this could trigger an asthma attack.”
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