Edinburgh Low Emission Zone: Health benefits are spelled out by Fiona Hyslop and experts

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Edinburgh’s new Low Emission Zone will bring clear health benefits to vulnerable people, young and old, according to Transport Secretary Fiona Hyslop and experts in the field.

The LEZ - which bans the worst-polluting vehicles from a 1.2 square mile area of the city centre - comes into force on Saturday, June 1. And Ms Hyslop joined city council leader Cammy Day and transport convener Scott Arthur at the Meadows to lunch the scheme.

Greg Macvean

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She said: I’m pleased that Edinburgh is protecting public health and improving air quality through their Low Emission Zone.  This bold action mirrors the decisive measures we’ve seen in towns and cities right across Europe.

“There are now over 320 similar schemes in effect which respond to the latest medical understanding concerning the dangerous effects of air pollution from vehicle emissions.

“We know air quality means so much in terms of people’s health and improving air quality improves people’s health, but also improves quality of life and it’s making our city centres greener.

“And we know the most vulnerable people - young people, those with health conditions and older people - really suffer from the problem of air quality. And we know that any air pollution can cause real damage.”

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Jonathan Roden, policy and public affairs manager at British Heart Foundation Scotland,  said: “Air pollution is a public health emergency. Each year up to 700 deaths from heart and circulatory disease in Scotland are attributable to particulate matter pollution. That’s why BHF Scotland welcomes the implementation of Edinburgh’s LEZ, which will help to improve the capital’s air quality and help to protect people's health.”

Gareth Brown, of at Asthma + Lung UK Scotland, said:  “With one in five Scots developing a lung condition like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in their lifetime, for them, air pollution can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups.

“Children are more susceptible to air pollution as their lungs are still growing, and they also breathe faster than adults. As they grow, toxic air can stunt the growth of their lungs, making them less resilient into adulthood and placing them at greater risk of lung disease in the future. 

“Public health focussed policies like LEZs are seen as the most effective tool, but we would like to see policies that go further, helping to clear up pollution hotspots throughout the country, not just in our four main cities. It is vitally important that we protect the lungs and health of our communities, no one should be forced to breathe in toxic air.”

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And the health message was reinforced by Flora Ogilvie, consultant in public health at NHS Lothian. She said: “Reducing air pollution has clear long and short-term health benefits for everyone but is especially important for vulnerable groups. NHS Lothian welcomes the introduction of the LEZ and wider actions to encourage walking, wheeling, cycling and public transport use.”

Councillor Arthur said for the past two years the council had run a positive information campaign to give people time to get ready for the LEZ.

He said: “I’m proud that we’ve reached this important milestone in our journey to become a healthier, greener, and more sustainable city. We have ambitious plans to achieve net zero, accommodate sustainable growth, cut congestion, and improve air quality, amongst other commitments to create a safer and more people-friendly city; and the LEZ is a key component of these.”

And he said public attitudes towards LEZs were improving across Scotland, with a recent poll indicating that 60 per cent of respondents were in favour of the zones, with just 21 per cent opposed. 

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“This is clear evidence that people are seeing the many benefits of LEZs, and how they link in with our wider aims to make our city cleaner, greener and healthier for everyone. As Scotland’s capital city, we have a duty to lead on these key climate issues which will define our country for generations to come.”

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