Air quality campaigners are demanding action after Salamander Street air pollution breached government ‘safe’ limits.
Salamander Street has become the first street in Edinburgh, and only the second in the whole of Scotland, to breach annual air pollution limits – with more than seven months of the year still to go.
Air pollution laws set a threshold for the amount of tiny dust particles, known as PM10s, permitted to be in the air.
If this threshold is breached more than seven times in a year, a street is considered to have broken air quality laws. On Salamander Street, early monitoring data shows that the threshold has already been broken eight times this year. Only Market Street in Aberdeen has breached the limit more often this year.
The latest pollution breaches come just a weeks after a government report estimated that poor air quality causes 205 early deaths in Edinburgh alone.
Now environmental campaigners, who liken the health problems caused by PM10s to passive smoking, are insisting more should be done to tackle what they call the ‘silent killer.’
Emilia Hannah, an air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Air pollution kills more than 205 people each year in Edinburgh, with people dying from asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks and lung cancers. This silent killer is like passive smoking because people cannot control what they breathe in.
“Traffic fumes are the main cause of air pollution, so we need to see the council working together with the government to clean up transport. We need better provision for pedestrians, cyclists, and cheaper public transport. People deserve to breathe clean air rather than being forced to inhale toxic fumes.”
The campaign group has recently released a video illustrating how PM10 pollution varies as a cyclist travels through traffic around the centre of Glasgow.
Salamander Street was also the fifth most polluted street in Scotland last year for PM10s.
Despite this, the local authority has yet to include the street in any of the city’s Air Quality Management Areas, although documents released through Freedom of Information legislation show that both the council and Scottish Environmental watchdog SEPA have undertaken studies to try to identify the source of the pollution problems.
None of these studies have proven conclusive, but both agencies appear convinced that the problem is not just caused by heavy levels of traffic on the street.
Environment watchdog SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency), says their findings rule out industrial activities on the docks as a chief source.
But, a City of Edinburgh Council official confirmed action had already been taken to move a cement batching plant and stockpiles of “grey sandy material” away from the area.
Officials have also suggested large piles of scrap metal on the docks “may give rise to fugitive emissions of PM10 when handled or moved.”
A council spokesperson said: “As a major city, improving air quality is a huge challenge in Edinburgh and Salamander Street is one area we are looking at as part of our Local Air Management framework.
“We are working hard to achieve better air quality, and as a Capital Coalition have pledged to investigate low emissions zones. The Scottish Government has stated they will bring forward a consultation on this later in the year.”