Scotland’s official air quality website is forecasting a moderate-to-high air pollution episode, continuing today and tomorrow.

Today (Monday 25 February) levels of toxic Particulate Matter are forecast to break World Health Organisation and Scottish regulatory safety standards. There will be moderate or high air pollution across Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Borders, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, and West Lothian.

A forecast summary, by local authority area, can be viewed here

The episode is expected to continue tomorrow (Tues 26 Feb), with air quality improving later in the week.

The source of this pollution is blowing in from continental Europe and combining with local sources, such as transport. Low winds over the past 24 hours have limited the dispersal of the pollution.

Air pollution damages public health and has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and restricted development in unborn babies and children.

Gavin Thomson, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“This pollution episode has been caused by a combination of pollution drifting in from other countries mixing with the traffic fumes being belched out by vehicles on our streets. People with lung or heart problems are particularly at risk. If people do experience symptoms, the government’s official health advice is to consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

“The levels on the streets today are illegal and unsafe and yet again highlight the need for strong action from the Scottish Government to protect its citizens. We need Low Emission Zones in every major city in Scotland to exclude the most polluting vehicles from the most polluted places.

“People in Scotland, particularly those with health conditions, need a much more comprehensive warning system. Air pollution events such as this one need to be widely communicated to the general public, with enough advance to allow people to limit their exposure and protect their health.

“Air pollution is like passive smoking, you don’t get a choice over the air you breathe. Society’s most vulnerable people are the hardest hit. If the Scottish Government believes in fairness and protecting public health it must tackle this pollution urgently.”

“To really address our chronic pollution problems, the Scottish Government needs to improve bus services, introduce 20mph zones as the norm in towns and cities, and roll out safe walking and cycling infrastructure so that cars are no longer the dominant mode of transport in built up areas. A third of people in Scotland don’t have access to a car and it is completely unfair that they are forced to suffer the harms of invisible, poisonous air pollution.

Notes to Editors

[1] The air pollution readings were taken from the Scottish Government’s official air quality monitoring website: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/ at 12:00 Monday 25th February 2019.

[2] Official government health advice, for increased air pollution levels, for both at risk groups and the general population: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/air-quality/daqi

[3] The key pollutants causing this episode are expected to be small particles (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5). Particles originating from road traffic include soot from engines, small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking as well as dust from road surfaces. They can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs and damage our health. The World Health Organisation advises that there is no safe level of exposure to Particulate Matter

[4] 5 different pollutants are monitored and forecasted on the Scottish Air Quality website. Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone, Particles < 2.5µm (PM2.5), Particles < 10µm (PM10).
Each pollutant is given a rating 1-10 for the following 24 hours, which indicates the expected concentration of that pollutant in the air we breathe. http://www.scottishairquality.scot/air-quality/daqi

These 1-10 ratings are correlated with the World Health Organisation recommended limits. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health When a pollutant is forecast to be “4: moderate”, or higher, over the next 24 hours, that means it is forecasted to break WHO recommendations.

The same is true of Scottish Air Quality Regulations. http://www.scottishairquality.scot/air-quality/standards

[5] Source of this pollution episode https://www.metclim.com/air-quality-forecasts/

[6] Health impacts of air pollution:

– Friends of the Earth Scotland estimate that 2500 people die early each year from air pollution in Scotland alone: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/RCP-Report

– Air pollution, at levels seen on Scottish streets, has been linked with :
– Respiratory illness including asthma and COPD
– Heart attacks and strokes
– Low birthweight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed
– Poor lung development in children
– Dementia
– Children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and sick are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
– (for more, see the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 report, “Every Breath we Take: The lifelong impact of air pollution”: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution)

[6] Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.