Three new ‘air pollution zones’ in Lothians

Salamander Street

Salamander Street

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Air pollution is causing a public health crisis in Scotland, environmental campaigners have said with three new “pollutions zones” declared in the Lothians over the last year.

Friends of the Earth Scotland analysed data which it said looked at the country’s dirtiest streets.

Official figures for two toxic pollutants reveal air quality safety standards are regularly broken, the campaign group said.

In 2016 new official pollution zones were declared in Linlithgow and Newton in West Lothian, with Edinburgh’s Salamander Street coming into force later this month.

Friends of the Earth Scotland looked at figures for two key pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and “particulate matter”.

The most polluted streets with nitrogen dioxide last year were Glasgow’s Hope Street with 65 microgrammes per cubic metre, St John’s Road in Edinburgh on 49, Wellington Road in Aberdeen with 46, Dundee’s Seagate on 46 and Cambuslang Main Street with 45.

Other streets breaking the European directive of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre were Union Street in Aberdeen, Queensferry Road in Edinburgh, Glasgow’s Dumbarton Road and Atholl Street in Perth.

Streets breaking the Scottish air quality objective of 18 microgrammes per cubic metre of particulate matter were Atholl Street, Queensferry Road, Salamander Street, Aberdeen’s King Street, Crieff High Street, Falkirk’s West Bridge Street and Glasgow Road in Edinburgh.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said the Scottish Government needs to take the issue more seriously.

Air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Air pollution from traffic is a public health crisis, claiming thousands of lives each year and particularly harmful for small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty.

“For people living in an official pollution zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life. It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities are not tackling this public health crisis with the seriousness and urgency required.

“We now have a staggering 38 official pollution zones across Scotland, up from 33 last year. This means that many more people are living with illegal levels of air pollution than previously recognised.

“The Scottish Government has promised a ‘plan’ for Low Emission Zones by 2018 but needs to make a public commitment that it will provide significant funding, so that local councils can get on with making serious plans to clean up the air in their area.”

Transport and environment leader Lesley Hinds said: “The City of Edinburgh Council is committed to addressing areas of poor air quality as a priority via a range of initiatives focusing on, for example, a lower-emission fleet, reducing congestion and cycling and walking projects – something Friends of the Earth Scotland has previously praised us for.

“We’ve also carried out practical work on signalling, specifically at Newbridge Roundabout, which is helping to significantly reduce waiting times and, we hope, emissions.

“I am pleased that these efforts are clearly having an impact, with our latest Air Quality Update showing an overall improvement in air quality across the city, with a downward trend observed for particle and nitrogen dioxide pollution.

“That said, we have no intention of resting on our laurels and we will continue rigorous monitoring of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in order to best direct resources.

“This will include the newest AQMA at Salamander Street, which has been established to enable us to tackle PM10 concentrations and where industrial activity in the area is believed to be a contributory source.

“We are also working with the Scottish Government to assist with the development of a National Low Emission Framework, which includes the implementation of Low Emission Zones.”