'˜Health crisis' warning over air pollution in Edinburgh

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have warned air pollution is becoming a 'public health crisis' after three '˜pollution zones' were declared in the Lothians last year.

Lesley Hinds 
is committed to tackling the issue. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Lesley Hinds is committed to tackling the issue. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Two of the zones – otherwise known as Air Quality Management Areas – were declared in Linlithgow and Newton in West Lothian, alongside a third in Salamander Street in Leith.

And according to Friends of the Earth Scotland, Edinburgh is also home to two of Scotland’s worst streets for their concentration of toxic air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Analysis carried out by the group saw St John’s Road ranked second worst with 49µg/m³ and Queensferry Road seventh worst with 42. The annual national target is 40µg/m³ or less.

Friends of the Earth Scotland 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.

“Edinburgh is making progress on walking and cycling levels and has Scotland’s cleanest bus fleet, but it still has unacceptable levels of air pollution so much more needs to be done. A low emission zone is required for the city in order to restrict the most polluting vehicles from entering. The council must start to plan for such a zone and the Scottish Government should support the council in doing so.”

The claim comes after the city council said air quality in the Capital was improving but warned against becoming complacent. Early figures for 2016 suggest some of Edinburgh’s most polluted streets, including St John’s Road, were beginning to improve.

Transport and environment leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said the council was “committed” to addressing areas of poor air quality through initiatives such as a lower-emission bus fleet, reducing congestion and cycling and walking projects.

She added: “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 in order to best direct resources.

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