Friends of the Earth Scotland has called on the government to treat air pollution like the “public health crisis it really is” after analysis revealed some areas are breaking EU air quality standards and are getting worse.
The environmental campaign group measured levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter, both of which have been linked to respiratory problems, in 2014.
Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, commented, “Air pollution is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths in Scotland each year and costs the NHS here up to £2 billion annually. The time has come for our polluted air to be treated as the public health crisis it really is.
“Although today’s air pollution is mostly invisible, its impact on our health is crystal clear. Breathing in polluted air increases your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or developing cancer. Children are also particularly vulnerable, with exposure to air pollution restricting lung development, leading to long-term health problems.”
Some 13 of the sites measured breach European regulation around NO2, with Hope Street in Glasgow coming out worst. Whilst six of the areas have seen a decrease in NO2 levels when compared to 2013, five have also seen an increase.
Similarly, 19 sites failed the Scottish Standard on particulate matter, with just two seeing a decrease on the previous year.
Hanna added, “The Scottish government is starting to show signs of action but it is painfully slow. A new Low Emissions 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 Emissions Strategy will save thousands of lives every year.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling for the government to cut traffic levels, clean up vehicle emissions, provide better cycle and walking paths and cleaner public transport. Additionally, the organisation wants to see Low Emission Zones rolled out across the country and provide money as an incentive for councils.
The analysis in Scotland comes after it was revealed London’s Oxford Street has breached the EU’s nitrogen dioxide limit for the whole of 2015 by January 5, leading to mayor Boris Johnson being blasted for taking “backward steps” on air pollution.
Photo: Riley Kaminer via Flickr