A report published yesterday [23 February 2016] by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reveals that 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution each year across the UK, much higher than previous official estimates that air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths UK-wide. Based on this research, FoE Scotland calculate that this equates to between 2,500-3,500 deaths a year in Scotland.
Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said “This new research shows that the previous official figure for how many people die early from air pollution underestimated the scale of the problem, and that air pollution is a much more serious public health crisis than previously understood.
“Based on this new research we can estimate that over 2,500 people in Scotland are dying early from air pollution each year. Breathing in toxic fumes increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Children, especially those growing up in urban settings, are forced to breathe in tiny harmful chemicals and studies have shown a link between exposure to nitrogen dioxide and children’s lung development. Air pollution can also cause developing foetuses to fail to grow to their full potential.
“Traffic is the main cause of today’s air pollution, so the solutions are simple, we need less traffic on the roads and vehicles need to have cleaner emissions. The Government must invest more money into sustainable travel modes like walking and cycling so that it is easier for people to do without a car. It must also roll out Low Emission Zones in each major city in the country by 2018, which would ban the most polluting vehicles from city centres.
“It is shocking that despite the overwhelming evidence showing that air pollution is a top killer and that traffic is the key cause, the Scottish Government continues to pour millions of pounds into unnecessary road building. When the Scottish Government decides its budget this Wednesday, this new evidence must make it reinvest a portion of its motorways budget back into walking and cycling projects.”