Dangerous air pollution levels ‘being kept hidden’

Air pollution in Musselburgh High Street is a concern. Picture: Gordon Fraser

Air pollution in Musselburgh High Street is a concern. Picture: Gordon Fraser

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DANGEROUS levels of air pollution posing a threat to public health have been discovered in Musselburgh amid claims the extent of the problem has been kept hidden by authorities.

Vehicle emissions breach World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, prompting experts to warn the council the town may be declared an Air Quality Management Area – a district failing to meet UK targets.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed levels of nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant from vehicles known to increase respiratory illnesses – in High Street and Bridge Street exceeded WHO limits and was discovered by a specialist consultancy firm last June, but has still not been made public.

They also show a report by Environmental Protection Officers had been due for release by April, but it is understood that it will not be 
available for months.

Jason Rose, a campaigner for the East Lothian Greens, exposed the pollution problems following an investigation.

He said the fact the public weren’t informed about the issue was “alarming”. “This sort of pollution is hard to see but it’s a real risk, especially for children, the elderly or those with conditions such as asthma,” he said.

“It’s worrying that the results of last year’s additional monitoring still aren’t available. This sort of delay is unacceptable, and suggests East Lothian Council are not making this issue the priority it should be.”

The revelations come weeks after Friends of the Earth called for Edinburgh to look again at introducing a congestion charge in a bid to beat rising pollution levels in the Capital.

Mr Rose added: “The authority appears to be putting great faith in revised traffic light sequences and possibly 
relocating a bus stop or two. They need to be bolder and they need to involve the community.”

Alan Hay, of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, said it was “shocking” the data hadn’t yet been released to the public

“This is a public health issue and there should be public meetings about it,” he said. “The traffic can be very heavy in Musselburgh and should be addressed.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire, environment spokesman for East Lothian Council, said: “The monitoring of air quality and resulting management of problem areas is very much a priority for the council but it is essential that accurate information is obtained to best inform us for appropriate action.”