Our recent research has shown harmful levels of air pollution are choking Scotland’s towns and cities. The slow pace of action from Councils and Government means that we must protect ourselves and our families while we push for the necessary transformation.

Here are 10 top tips to help keep you safer from air pollution:

1. Steer clear of the busiest roads

There are huge reductions in levels of harmful airborne pollutants if you use the quieter streets. In fact there are exponential reductions as you move away from the roadside: within 50 or 100 metres the levels of pollutants can be halved.

2. Avoid hotspots

Studies have shown that pollution levels can drop by as much as a third simply by walking on the building side of the pavement instead of the kerbside. This is particularly important for children in prams, as much of the pollution hovers just above street level. Stay away from the kerb and and take a step back at crossings when waiting to cross.

3. Walk the kids to school

It’s great if you can walk, scoot, cycle, or use public transport instead of taking the car. Sitting in cars actually increases levels of exposure to pollutants: another good reason to ditch the car and take a more sustainable route to school.

4. Be a mate, don’t park at the school gate

If you’re taking your kids to school, you could work with other parents to discourage engine idling at the school gates. Idling produces lots of tiny particles, which are especially bad for young lungs.
Many schools have signs discouraging parents from idling while waiting to pick up or drop off. Some schools in Glasgow have created Car Free Zones where cars are banned in the streets around the school during pick up and drop off times.

5. Cut down your own emissions

If driving is absolutely necessary, be sure to limit your emissions as much as possible by not idling your engine. Engine Idling can also result in a fine. Carpooling is a great way to limit your emissions: a lift shared means one more vehicle off the road.

Credit: Scott Marley, Flickr

6. Run in leafy parks 

The air quality in parks is always much better than surrounding areas, because you’re away from traffic. Some trees can even filter the nasty tiny particles, aswell as act as a barrier to the emissions from the surrounding roads. Route your run through the park if you can. It’s cleaner and greener, and your lungs will thank you for it.

7. Sign up to receive air pollution alerts from Scottish Air Quality

The Know & Respond – Scotland service is free to subscribers in Scotland and sends registered users an alert message if air pollution in their area is forecast to be moderate, high or very high. Download their free app to get the latest air pollution information wherever you are.

8. Speak to your politicians 

Contact your political representatives to tell them why clean air matters to you and your family. There is only so much difference you can make as an individual, and there are society-wide changes that need to be made. Politicians won’t act until they feel that push from the public. Find your Councillors’, MSPs’ and MP details here

Campaigners demand clean air in Edinburgh (Credit: Maverick Photo Agency)

9. Get active in your neighbourhood

Tackling air pollution requires action at every level of Scottish society to improve how we travel around. If you want to get active, you can check out our Air Pollution toolkit that will help you campaign in your community.

10. Push for changes to the transport system by joining FoES

By joining FoES, you will help enable us to campaign for clean air, putting pressure on Councils to deliver effective action that will ensure healthier streets for all.
Join now from as little as £5 per month.

By Mike Edmonstone, Communications Volunteer