A list of Scotland’s most-polluted streets shows more must be done to improve air quality, campaigners say.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said the list showed many streets are still failing to meet safety standards, meaning the Scottish Government could face legal action.
The environmental group analysed official data for two harmful pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and coarse particles (PM10) which are known to be linked with serious health problems including heart attacks, strokes, respiratory illness and early death.
Campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Streets are breaking legal limits in each major city in Scotland, demonstrating just how serious and widespread Scotland’s air pollution health crisis is.
“Air pollution causes over 2000 early deaths in Scotland each year at a cost of over £1.1bn to the economy. Air pollution increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks and the main culprit is traffic.”
The eight most polluted streets for nitrogen dioxide in 2015 were:
Edinburgh St John’s Road – 65
Glasgow Hope Street – 60
Dundee Seagate – 50
Perth Atholl Street – 48
Dundee Lochee Road – 48
Aberdeen Union Street – 46
Edinburgh Queensferry Road – 41
Aberdeen Wellington Road – 41
Figures are in micro grammes per cubic metre(μg/m3), with the Scottish Air Quality Objective being 18, meaning these locations all fail the objective.
Ms Hanna said: “St John’s Road in Edinburgh now has the unfortunate title of being the most polluted street in Scotland with nitrogen dioxide levels well above Scottish safety standards. Edinburgh Council needs to take much more drastic action, including looking at restricting the most polluting vehicles with a Low Emission Zone.
“Four years after we first started publishing the list of the most polluted streets, we still find illegal levels, often in the same locations year after year. These are streets where people live, work and relax. The repeat offenders show us that local councils and the Scottish Government are not treating this public health crisis seriously enough.
“Glasgow Council is no longer measuring harmful particle pollution (PM10) in Anderston near a primary school, and on Hope Street in the city centre. Both these streets last year broke the safety standards so it is very hard to understand why the monitors have been switched off in these key known problem areas. You can’t make a pollution problem go away just by ignoring it.”
Edinburgh resident Irene Orr, recently retired, is a long-term asthma sufferer. She relies on an extensive range of medication each day to manage the condition.
She said: “There is no doubt that the traffic in Edinburgh has an impact on my asthma. The very calm days are the worst as traffic fumes don’t disperse as well.
“One of the reasons I come to Corstorphine so rarely is because there is always traffic congestion on St John’s Road and it’s so polluted.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland is now calling on more support for clean-air initiatives across the country.
Ms Hanna said: “The government must support local authorities with funding to implement low emission zones in all major cities. It must also increase its investment in walking and cycling paths so that it becomes safer and more convenient for people to leave their cars at home.
“It is unacceptable that the Government is throwing £3bn at dualling the A9 while funding for walking, cycling and public transport and measures to improve air quality remains very low. That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to reallocate a portion of its motorways budget to active travel in the next budget.”