The air pollution in Scotland’s towns and cities is creating a public health crisis, according to environmental campaigners. Scotland’s streets continue to break European air quality standards as the country wrestles with an invisible “public health crisis” costing thousands of lives and billions of pounds.
This claim by Friends of the Earth Scotland came after they analysed official data for two toxic pollutants. The group said the latest figures showed pollution levels were continuing to break Scottish and European limits.
However, ministers defended their record, saying they were working hard, along with councils, to improve air quality. Friends of the Earth Scotland examined two key pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter – tiny particles which are pumped into the air by diesel vehicles.
Particulate matter is tiny ‘coarse’ particles released by diesel-fuelled vehicles that, like NO2, causes respiratory problems and exacerbates other health conditions. Experts estimate that Scottish air pollution kills 2,000 people a year — more than alcohol-related to road-accident deaths put together.
The environmental group said air pollution had worsened in several areas, including Whitehall Street in Dundee; it found that air pollution had worsened in several areas over the last year. High levels of NO2 are linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.
Those sites where nitrogen dioxide levels had worsened included St John’s Road and Queensferry Road in Edinburgh, Dundee’s Whitehall Street, Falkirk’s West Bridge Street and Rutherglen’s Main Street.
Low Emission Strategy
Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
“Yet again, Scotland’s streets are shown to have dangerous levels of toxic pollution which are breaking legal limits that were due to be met in 2010.”
“Pollution levels in our urban areas are showing little sign of improvement with some key streets even more polluted than in 2013. Air pollution is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths in Scotland each year and costs the NHS here up to £2bn annually. The time has come for our polluted air to be treated as the public health crisis it really is.”
“The Scottish government is starting to show signs of action but it is painfully slow. A new Low Emission Strategy was promised by the end of 2014 but has yet to appear. The Low Emission Strategy is the crucial blueprint which should spell out when people in Scotland will finally be able to breathe clean air. If the Scottish government gets it right, then its Low Emission Strategy will save thousands of lives every year.”
A Scottish government spokesman said:
“The Scottish government, working in partnership with Scotland’s 32 local authorities, continues to make progress in improving our air quality. Data shows that significant reductions in air pollutants have been achieved since 1990 and further decreases are predicted in the future, given our knowledge of the likely impacts of planned investment.”
“Although there has been excellent progress, we recognise that there is more to be done to deliver further benefits for human and environmental health where areas of poorer air quality remain.”
“Following work with a wide range of partners and stakeholders, the Scottish government will launch, later this month, a consultation on a Low Emission Strategy.
“This will set out the contribution that reduced air pollution can make to delivering sustainable economic growth and enhancing the quality of life for communities across Scotland, with a focus on progress in Scottish towns and cities over the coming years.”