Car fumes and atmospheric conditions create a dangerous mix
Scotland is in the grip of a deadly air pollution epidemic, a green group has warned.
Levels of toxins breaking World Health Organisation safety standards have been breached in many parts of the country.
The central belt and the east are particularly badly hit, with unsafe levels of particulate matter currently being recorded in Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian, Falkirk, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and Renfrewshire.
People with lung and heart problems are at risk of illness – and have been advised against strenuous outdoor activity.
Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Toxic particulate matter has blown in from the south of the United Kingdom and has added to the pollution pouring out of car and lorry exhausts on our streets.
“Still, calm weather in England produced a build up of traffic-derived air pollution, which is now travelling to Scotland. The air pollution episode is creating dangerous conditions, especially for vulnerable people with lung or heart problems.
“The official health advice that accompanies the levels currently being experienced across the Central Belt is that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.
“The levels being recorded by monitors are in breach of World Health Organisation and Scottish safety standards, which were due to have been achieved over a decade ago.”
The episode is forecasted to head north over the weekend, with Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar, Highland Council, Moray, Perth & Kinross, the Shetlands, and Stirling expected to have unsafe levels tomorrow and over the weekend.
Traffic-derived air pollution, mainly composed of fine particles and toxic gases, has been linked with cancer, allergies, asthma, strokes, heart attacks, restricted foetal development, damaged lung development in children, and more recently, the onset of dementia in adults.
It causes 2500 early deaths in Scotland each year, and is second only to smoking in terms of its mortality impacts.
Hanna continued: “We have a right to breathe clean air, and the toxic levels of pollution are seriously damaging our health, despite a legal obligation on the Scottish Government to tackle this problem. Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, and motorised transport is the key culprit.
“The Scottish Government needs to stop pouring millions into new motorways and trunk roads, and start getting serious about funding walking and cycling, and improving public transport.
“The Scottish Government has promised us a Low Emission Zone by 2018, and local politicians are beginning to show willing for a zone, but the government needs to make a public commitment that it will provide funding for these zones.
Friends of the Earth Scotland recently revealed that Scotland continues to break legal limits, with more official pollution zones than ever before.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "“We are determined to improve air quality and are working to ensure Scotland’s first low emission zone is in place next year. The government is liaising closely with local authorities and other partners to meet this timetable.
“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 1200 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. Scotland is the first country in Europe to adopt in legislation the WHO guideline value for particulate matter 2.5 – a pollutant of special concern for human health.”