The deluge of the so-called 'Sahara Rain' means people should be braced for "very high" levels of air pollution over the next few days, experts have warned.
The fine dust, swept from 2,000 miles away, is causing air pollution that can trigger hayfever-like symptoms and cause respiratory problems to flare up.
The Sahara dust, swept from 2,000 miles away, is causing air pollution
The East of England and Midlands are the worst-affected areas today but large swathes of England and Wales will see high levels of pollution tomorrow, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
The elevated pollution levels have been caused by a combination of light south-easterly winds, the continental air flow and dust which has blown up from the Sahara desert, a spokeswoman said.
Today north-west Norfolk should experience the highest level of air pollution, reaching 10 on Defra's 10-point scale.
According to Defra's pollution forecast, the people in the region can expect "very high" levels of pollution.
Other parts of East Anglia will experience "high" levels and parts of south-east England and the Humber region will experience "moderate" pollution.
"The current elevated pollution levels over parts of the UK are caused by light winds allowing the build-up of pollution, plus dust from the Sahara contributing to pollution levels," according to the Defra forecast.
The pollution is spreading across the east of England
However, tomorrow experts are anticipating "high" or "very high" air pollution levels across much of England and Wales.
And the high levels of pollution are expected to continue across East Anglia and the Midlands on Thursday.
But the air pollution is expected to ebb away by Friday.
Earlier this week, people awoke to find their cars covered in a light coating of red dust. The Met Office said that a large amount of sand and dust was swept up by storm winds in the Sahara Desert.
Experts said that the airborne particles of dust were blown north to the UK where they combined with our warm air and were deposited during showers.
A Defra spokeswoman said: "The high level of air pollution this week is due to a combination of local emissions, light winds, pollution from the continent and dust blown over from the Sahara.
"We want to keep improving air quality and have introduced a new five-day forecast service in addition to investing heavily in local and transport initiatives to tackle this issue head-on."
In London, Labour's group on the London Assembly have criticised Mayor Boris Johnson for a lack of concrete action on smog levels. Each year poor air quality kills over 4,000 Londoners, Labour said.
The story continues below...
Sahara Dust Comes To London
“This latest smog episode should act as a wake up call to our Mayor, whilst sand blown in from the Sahara is a contributing factor, the fact is Boris has not taken decisive action to tackle local air pollution," said Murad Qureshi, the group's Environment spokesperson.
"In the last six years he has prioritised cars over public transport, and where he has invested he has wasted money on his new RouteMaster instead of cleaning up the entire bus fleet.
“A major factor contributing to London’s air pollution is particulate matter from diesel engines. Boris needs to take action and show real leadership on this issue, that is what Mayors are there for. He needs to play his part in tackling our city’s silent killer which causes over 4,000 deaths a year.”