The Government has released official figures which show that air pollution “spikes” on some of Scotland’s busiest streets breached Scottish standards in 2013, creating immediate health risks. (1)

Environment group Friends of the Earth Scotland has analysed official data to show that Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Paisley and Rutherglen all experienced too many pollution “spikes”, that is, where pollution levels were high for a number of hours. At the worst site, Paisley Central Road experienced over ten times the number of permissible pollution peaks, with 214 spikes in Nitrogen Dioxide in 2013.

Air pollution has been linked with asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, and lung cancer. Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed Scotland’s most polluted streets for long-term air pollution averages. (2) This newly ratified government data is different because it relates to “spikes” or short-term air pollution measurements, which can affect people’s health on a day-to-day basis.

The results come shortly after it was revealed that over 2000 people die prematurely from exposure to air pollution across Scotland each year. (3)

Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said,

“These new results are for short-term spikes in pollution, which is where for a period of hours or days pollution levels rise dramatically.

“Even if you are exposed to air pollution for a short amount of time it can damage your health. Short-term spikes in air pollution increase the risk of asthma attacks, strokes and heart disease, and are known to cause early death.

“That is why we have Scottish standards which set limits on short term exposure to air pollution. These limits have been broken in Glasgow, Paisley, Dundee, Aberdeen and Rutherglen.

“The Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaign is regularly contacted by people who say that on certain days, they cannot travel into their city centre because they fear that bad air pollution will cause them to suffer an asthma attack or worse.

“For the sake of saving lives, we are urging both government and local authorities to spend more money on making it safe to walk and cycle, on improving public transport and on rolling out ultra low emissions zones which place restrictions on the most polluting vehicles.”

The Results for 2013

Nitrogen Dioxide – 5 sites experienced excessively high short-term spikes in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Under the Scottish Air Quality Standards, if a site experiences an hourly average of over 200 microgrammes per metre cubed for more than 18 hours in one year, it fails the short-term legal limit for NO2.

The results are displayed as follows:

List of monitoring sites exceeding the objective in 2013

Ranking, Site, Number of Exceedences (NB: permissible number of exceedences of hourly average of 200 in one year: 18)

1. Paisley Central Road, 214

2. Dundee Lochee Road, 100

3. Dundee Seagate, 60

4. Paisley Gordon Street, 46

5. Glasgow Anderston, 42

Small Particles – Short term spikes in PM10 are also harmful to health. Under Scottish Air Quality Standards if a site has experiences a daily average of over 50 microgrammes per metre cubed more than 7 times in one year, it fails the short-term legal limit for PM10.

Aberdeen Market Street and South Lanarkshire’s Rutherglen failed the short-term objective for PM10, with Market street experiencing over 8 times the number of permitted spikes

List of monitoring sites exceeding the objective in 2013

Ranking, Site, Number of Exceedences (NB: permissible number of
exceedences of daily average of 50 in one year: 7)

1. Aberdeen Market Street 2, 58

2. South Lanarkshire Rutherglen, 9


Notes to Editor

(1) These results are based on official government data which is available at www.scottishairquality.co.uk, which was confirmed as “ratified” by the Government on 6 May, meaning that the results have been verified. The results relating to NO2 can be found at http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/data/data-selector.php?f_exceedence_… the results relating to PM10 can be found at http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/data/data-selector.php?f_exceedence_….

(2) In January 2014, Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed the list of streets across Scotland which were in breach of the long-term annual standards for NO2 and PM10. The press release is at http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1744

(3) Public Health England’s research on deaths from air pollution in each regional authority in Scotland is available at http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607. The Scottish figures are in Table 3. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s press release on this is at http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1821

(4) The World Health Organisation confirmed in 2013 that short-term exposure to Particulate Matter (PM10) is linked with adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, including early death. “Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution – REVIHAAP”, available at http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/182432/e96762-final.pdf. The World Healtgh Organiation has also confirmed there is a link between NO2 spikes and mortality, hospital admissions, and respiratory symptoms.