'Public Health Crisis' Caused by Air Pollution in Scotland

Wednesday, January 14th 2015

According to environmental campaigners, air pollution in the cities and towns of Scotland is creating a public health crisis.

The claim comes from Friends of the Earth Scotland following their analysis of official data for two toxic pollutants.

The group say the latest figures depict that pollution levels are continuing to break the limits of Scotland and Europe.

Ministers, however, defend their record and state that they are working hard to improve the quality of air, alongside councils.

Friends of the Earth Scotland examined particulate matter (tiny particles that are pumped into the air from diesel vehicles) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These are both key pollutants and high levels of NO2 are linked to a number of respiratory problems such as asthma.

The findings showed that air pollution has gotten worse in several areas over the last 12 months. The areas affected by this increase include Rutherglen (Main Street), Falkirk (West Bridge Street), Dundee (Whitehall Street) and Edinburgh (Queensferry Road and St. John's Road).

Last year it was quoted by Health Protection Scotland that air pollution could have been responsible for 2000 deaths in Scotland in a single year. It is thought that it costs the NHS up to £2 billion a year.

Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said that once again, the streets of Scotland are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic pollution, and this breaks legal limits that should have been met five years ago. She told reporters that pollution levels in Scotland's urban areas are hardly showing any signs of improvement, and some of the main streets are now even more polluted than they were in 2013.

Hanna admits that Scotland's government are beginning to act on the issue, albeit at a slow pace. She feels strongly that now is the time for air pollution to be treated as the public health crisis it actually is.

A Low Emission Strategy had been set to take place by the end of last year, but so far has yet to take effect. According to Hanna, this strategy is crucial to Scotland's public health as it will be able to determine when the air will be clean. This could save thousands of lives each year.

A spokesperson from the Scottish government claimed that they are working together with the country's 32 local authorities and are continually making progress in the improvement of air quality.