Stagnant air spreads across England

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Friday, April 18, 2008

A map of the stink's journey from its roots in continental Europe to southern and eastern areas of England.
Image: Harris Morgan.
I noticed an acrid smell rather like burning plastic during the night, about 5am. It is the sort of smell you can taste.

—Marian Miller from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Stagnant air spread today across southern and eastern parts of England including the capital city, London.

The police, fire and water services as well as the Met Office were all asked to give an explanation for the smell. The police and fire services were at a loss as to how to respond, but Thames Water assured its customers that there were no problems with any of its water treatment plants. A Met Office spokesperson explained that "over the last few days, we've had fresh, strong winds from an easterly direction. As a result some of our air is coming from continental Europe." The westerly wind which England usually receives is less pungent, having arrived from the Atlantic.

Geoff Dollard, an air quality expert, told the Daily Mail "The feeling is that it's natural".

The origin of the smell is therefore thought to be from manure recently spread on continental European farms (from France, the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany). A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said: "This has happened before. In Holland and Belgium they are spreading millions of tons of muck at the moment. It is a countryside smell."

The stench is expected to die down over the weekend but Met Office spokeswoman Helen Chivers says that if there are no south or south-westerly winds, "it is possible it may hang around until Tuesday".