Air pollution in Scotland is a “public health crisis”, says Friends of the Earth
Traffic - credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Air pollution in Scotland has been branded a “public health crisis”, after new data showed streets across Scotland continue to register unsafe and illegal levels of pollution.
The data shows there are now 38 pollution zones, where safety standards for air quality are regularly broken, an increase of five compared to last year.
Air pollution, which has been linked with respiratory illness, heart attacks, strokes and dementia, is thought to contribute to 2,500-3,000 early deaths in Scotland each year.
The data, analysed by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland, is based on information from the Government’s Scottish Air Quality Website.
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FoE air pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Air pollution from traffic is a public health crisis, claiming thousands of lives each year and particularly harmful for small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty. For people living in an official Pollution Zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life. It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.
“Edinburgh is making progress on walking and cycling levels and has Scotland’s cleanest bus fleet, but it still has unacceptable levels of air pollution so much more needs to be done. A Low Emission Zone is required for the city in order to restrict the most polluting vehicles from entering. The council must start to plan for such a zone, and the Scottish Government should support the council in doing so.
“In addition, the council must continue to cut traffic from the city centre and refuse planning applications which would invite more traffic into the capital.
“Our addiction to cars is killing us. But it’s those who tend not to drive who are worst impacted by pollution: children, the elderly, and those living in poverty.”
Analysis from Defra suggests air pollution costs the UK economy as a whole £16bn per year.
The Scottish Government responded to say it was working to ensure Scotland's first low emission zone was in place next year.
A spokeswoman said: “Our work on air pollution also includes a range of transport initiatives which are already in place, for example creating one of the most comprehensive electric vehicle charging networks in Europe with more than 1,200 charging bays, an interest free loan scheme to support low emission vehicle ownership, and a £14.5 million Green Bus Fund, which has seen the introduction of 300 low emission buses to the Scottish fleet. In addition, our Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy sets out an ambitious programme of action to promote air quality.”