Suspected gas leak linked to Saharan dust in Milton Keynes

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Firefighters who were called out to a gas leak at a house in Netherfield this morning say the false alarm could have been connected to the Saharan dust, which has recently plagued parts of England.

It’s caused record levels of air pollution and left visible layers of dust forming on cars and buildings in the worst affected areas.

But this morning, at 8.30am, people living in Farthing Grove called the fire service to report a strong smell of gas outside their home.

Bletchley crews arrived to investigate, but by 8.55am the smell of gas had disappeared, leaving firefighters to suspect that it was “possibly related to the pollution.”

A spokesman for Bucks Fire and Rescue Service said: “If someone genuinely believes there may be a gas leak, then please call 999. We don’t mind when it is this kind of false alarm; it’s when it is a hoax that lives are at risk.

“We don’t want anyone to not report a real gas leak because they think it might be related to the Saharan dust.

“So either call 999 or the gas emergency number 0800 111999.”

NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group is providing health advice to the public during the present period of increased air pollution.

Public Health England, which provides advice to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the health effects of air pollution, said: “Whilst most people will not be affected by short term peaks in air pollution, some individuals, particularly vulnerable groups such as those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms.

“On occasions where levels are high, adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.

“Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.”

Dr Nicola Smith, local GP and Chair of NHS MK CCG said: “Patients with inhalers should use them as prescribed and seek advice if they are having trouble breathing.

“In due course they should also ensure they attend their annual review and to take their inhalers with them so the nurse can assess their technique.

“When levels of air pollution are high, adults with COPD should consider reducing or avoiding strenuous, outdoor exercise; try to avoid exercise in highly polluted areas such as main roads; and make sure that, if they use one, they carry their reliever inhaler with them.

“The use of masks is not recommended as they are often ineffective and may make breathing more difficult.”

For air pollution health advice, up-to-date information on air pollution levels and related health advice for specific area can be obtained via the DEFRA website, or by calling DEFRA’s freephone helpline on 0800 556677.