THE nasty pong wafting across Hampshire today is nothing to be worried about, say county fire chiefs.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's control room has received a steady stream of calls reporting a strong gas smell in the air.

The unpleasant odour is thought to come from a leak in a factory in northern France. The Health Protection Agency has stressed the gas is non-toxic and presents no threat to the public.

The chemical released - mercaptan - is an organic compound added to natural gas, lubricants and paints. The smell is caused by the sulphur in the gas but it is completely harmless.

More than 20 calls have been received, mainly from the Portsmouth area. However there have been reports as far north as Basingstoke and Andover and west as far as Ringwood.

Group manager Tony Deacon said: "Our control room has dealt with a number of calls reporting the unpleasant gas smell. We want to reassure the public that the gas presents no threat to health and is completely harmless.

"We would also like to remind the public that if they suspect they are dealing with a genuine gas emergency in their home or building, they should call the National Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111999."