It has emerged this morning (Sunday 6 July) that a key environmental promise to introduce Low Emission Zones at the Commonwealth Games venues will not be delivered by the Organising Committee.

Low Emission Zones had been promised because they were expected to reduce Glasgow’s air pollution. (1) A Low Emission Zone is an area where the most polluting vehicles are restricted from access, which has been based in law and is enforced using either permit systems or automatic number plate recognition systems. (2)

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

“Low Emission Zones were promised as part of the environmental pledges which underpinned Glasgow's bid to host the Commonwealth Games, but this promise has been broken. The Zones were a key project and Glasgow won the bid for the Commonwealth Games in part because of its green promises.

“What we now know is that there will not be Low Emission Zones during the Games. We were expecting restrictions covering a wide area of several streets out from each venue, but all we are getting is the existing security cordon immediately around the sites. Part of the legacy of the Games could have been to demonstrate for the first time in Scotland the difference that Low Emission Zones could make to pollution. Any restrictions on vehicles covering such a limited area are effectively pointless.”

Glasgow City Council has discussed introducing Low Emission Zones since 2009 as a way to tackle Glasgow’s air pollution problem, but they have yet to be implemented. (3) Air pollution is understood to be responsible for over 300 deaths each year in Glasgow alone and over 2000 in Scotland. (4)

“It is scandalous that the public is being made to think that big steps are being taken to clean up Glasgow's air as a result of the Games because air pollution is literally killing people in Glasgow. Toxic particles are responsible for over 300 deaths in Glasgow each year. Most people in Glasgow know someone affected by asthma, heart disease or lung problems, and air pollution worsens all of these conditions. It affects children and people on lower incomes worst.

“The government and Glasgow City Council are still stating that Low Emission Zones will be implemented at the Games and we now know this is not the case.”

New research showing a link between air pollution and impaired lung development in children suggests that Scotland’s next generation of athletes are in danger of not achieving their full potential. (5)

“For future aspiring athletes growing up in Glasgow to have the best chance of competing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Council and the Government need to make tackling Glasgow's air pollution a top priority. They need to introduce genuine Low Emission Zones and take measures to reduce traffic volumes in the city centre.”


Notes for Editors

(1) Promises of Low Emission Zones at the Games:
– The Commonwealth Games Sustainability Plan promised to “establish Low Emission Zones around Games venues” (p 18, http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=8465)
– Glasgow City Council’s website had described Low Emission Zones at the venues as follows: “As part of the bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow City Council undertook a commitment to establish a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) at each venue during the event”. The webpage was rewritten as of July 4th, removing reference to the commitment to establish LEZs at each venue during the event. http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11142
– The Minister for Environment and Climate Change Paul Wheelhouse answered a parliamentary question on Low Emission Zones around Commonwealth Games venues (Supplementary to S4O-03296 http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=922… )

(2) The Scottish Government guidance note on Low Emission Zones defines “Low Emission Zone” as “a geographically defined area where the most polluting vehicles are restricted, deterred or discouraged from access and use” which is set up using one of two possible legal routes: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/waste-and-pollution/Pollut…

(3) See Glasgow City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan of 2009 : http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=8373&p=0

(4) “Shocking death toll from air pollution at local level revealed”, Friends of the Earth Scotland press release, April 2014 http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1821

(5) “Polluted city air stunts babies’ lungs in womb,” The Sunday Times, 29 June 2014 http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Health/article1428146.ece
Preliminary findings of Dr Ian Mudway’s research linking lung damage to poor air quality in London, Air Quality News, July 20 2012: http://www.airqualitynews.com/2012/07/20/lungs-of-london-schoolchildren-…

There is a growing body of evidence which links long term exposure to air pollution with lung function, and asthma:
– McConnell R, Berhane K, Yao L. et al, (2006) “Traffic, susceptibility, and childhood asthma.” Environ Health Perspect 2006. 114766–772.772: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16675435
– Gauderman et al, (2007) “Effect of exposure to traffic on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age: a cohort study” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17307103. These findings from California showed that a children living within 500 m of a freeway had deficits in 8-year growth (i.e., from 10 to 18 yr) of lung function compared with children who lived at least 1,500 m from a freeway.
– Molter et al, (2013) “Long Term Exposure to PM10 and NO2 in Association with Lung Volume and Airway Resistance in the MAAS Birth Cohort” (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/121/6/ehp.1205961.pdf), reporting that long term exposure to PM10 and NO2 may be associated with reduced growth in FEV1 in children

(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, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.