MSPs launch Scottish air pollution inquiry

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Image caption Environmental campaigners claim air pollution is causing a public health crisis

MSPs have launched an inquiry into how to stop the problems caused by air pollution.

It comes after environmental campaigners said the issue was causing a public health crisis.

A Friends of the Earth report in January found Scotland's most polluted streets regularly breached the European limit for levels of nitrogen dioxide.

Recent evidence also suggests air pollution could be contributing to 15,000 early deaths in Scotland a year.

The top three Scottish streets most polluted with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2016 were Hope Street in Glasgow, St John's Road in Edinburgh and Wellington Road in Aberdeen.

NO2, which is produced by vehicle engines, has been linked to respiratory disease.

Lung condition

Graeme Dey, convener of the environment, climate change and land reform committee, said Scotland needed to take air quality seriously to achieve its ambitious targets.

"Not only can poor air quality impact our natural environment and wildlife, but it is also bad for our own health and is especially harmful for the young, elderly and people who already have heart and lung conditions," he said.

"In fact, recent evidence suggests air pollution may be a contributory factor to 15,000 early deaths in Scotland each year.

"As part of our new inquiry, the committee wants to hear whether Scotland is doing all that it can to tackle toxic gases and how this fits into the overall plans to cut pollution within the UK and EU."

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Nine most polluted streets for nitrogen dioxide in 2016

  • Hope Street, Glasgow - 65
  • St John's Road, Edinburgh - 49
  • Wellington Road, Aberdeen - 46
  • Seagate, Dundee - 46
  • Main Street, Cambuslang - 45
  • Union Street Roadside, Aberdeen - 43
  • Queensferry Road, Edinburgh - 42
  • Dumbarton Road, Glasgow - 42
  • Atholl Street, Perth - 40

Figures in micrograms per cubic metre. The European Ambient Air Quality directive limits nitrogen dioxide to 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

(Source: Friends of the Earth Scotland)

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the inquiry, saying the "national disgrace" of air pollution caused thousands of deaths as well as a billion pound cost to the economy.

He added: "Air pollution endangers the most vulnerable in our society - the young, the elderly and those with existing health problems.

"Toxic air has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and even mothers giving birth to babies prematurely and with reduced birth weights.

"Tackling air pollution by getting cars off the roads will deliver huge co-benefits in terms of reducing climate emissions. Transport recently became the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in Scotland, with figures still stuck around 1990 levels."

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