Scotland's 'most polluted streets' identified
- 26 January 2014
- From the section Scotland
Friends of the Earth Scotland has published league tables which they claimed identify Scotland's most polluted streets last year.
Hope Street in central Glasgow is named as the area with the most serious nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution problem in the country.
High levels of NO2 are linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.
Market Street in Aberdeen is claimed to be the worst in Scotland for particulate matter pollution (PM10).
Health experts say long-term exposure to air pollution caused by particulates is linked to a higher risk of heart attack.
The tables have been produced by FOE Scotland following analysis of data gathered by roadside and kerbside monitoring stations around Scotland.
The campaigners have highlighted research published by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants which suggests that very fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) was responsible for the deaths of 1,560 people in Scotland in 2008.
FOE Scotland said those figures demonstrated that air pollution was a greater threat to public health than road traffic accidents.
Streets in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Paisley are all listed in the league tables.
Figures for NO2 and PM10 are given in micrograms per cubic metre. The European annual mean legal limit is 40 for NO2, while Scottish Air Quality Objective for particle matter is 18.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of FOE Scotland, said the research showed that air pollution was also a threat to health in smaller towns and villages.
He told BBC Scotland: "We have air pollution problems in all of our big urban areas. Action is long overdue.
"We still haven't met health protection targets which we were supposed to meet in 2005 and 2010.
"But there are some surprising places in the results as well. For example, we're missing health targets in Crieff, in Perth, and even in small villages in some parts of West Lothian and North Lanarkshire.
"It's taken us a decade to talk about it, but do very little, and we need to see much more action if we're going to solve the problem and give ourselves the clean air we deserve."
Responding to the publication of the league tables, the Scottish government insisted it was working to tackling air pollution.
Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: "The Scottish government is committed to working with partner agencies such as local authorities to tackle air quality in areas where it is a problem.
"While we have seen nationally a 65% decrease in nitrogen oxides, a 78% decrease in sulphur dioxide and a 58% decrease in particulates between 1990 and 2011, we recognise that more can be done.
"That is why we recently consulted on proposals for further action to improve air quality and expect to set out next steps later this year."
The government is urging Scots to walk or cycle when making short journeys. Its active travel campaign was designed to highlight that mile for mile, short car journeys cause the greatest emissions.
Ministers said a third of car journeys in Scotland were under two miles (3.2km), and car engines did not operate at optimal efficiency over such short distances.
Scientists caution that air pollution data must be interpreted carefully, to ensure long-term trends can be accurately identified.
Dr Stefan Reis, of the Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh, said: "Comparing measurements over longer periods of time is important, as the effect of weather conditions can be larger than year-to-year reductions due to emission limits for new cars or buses for example.
"Longer-term trends show a gradual decline of concentrations of key pollutants, but more needs to be done to tackle the levels of pollution urban populations are exposed to.
"This means not only urgently adopting stricter, binding standards, such as the limit value recommended by the World Health Organisation for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, but also enforcing the attainment of these standards.
"It will, however, require policies as well as individuals to consider the use of private cars or using solid fuel stoves to achieve this".