Air pollution warnings have been issued as several parts of Scotland are experiencing a high pollution episode, leaving asthmatics particularly vulnerable to attacks.

Levels of Particulate Matter (PM10) are particularly high, as a weather pattern is coming in from Western Europe. Since Tuesday morning, Aberdeen has been experiencing pollution levels above the daily limit, with levels over four times the limit in Aberdeen’s Market Street. Levels of elevated pollution have now spread to Dundee, Perth, parts of West Lothian, Falkirk and Rutherglen and are forecast to continue to be high across the Central Belt tomorrow (18 March).

The general advice from the Scottish Government to the public when air pollution is high is to “reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat”. Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people are advised to avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

The stable, calm weather over the past few days have prevented the pollution from dispersing.

Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said:

“Pollution from road traffic is the key cause of this current air pollution episode. During an episode like this, asthmatics are more prone to an attack and we may see an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory conditions and heart attacks. This type of pollution kills more than 2000 people every year in Scotland.

“In France, urgent action has been taken, with free public transport announced for everyone in Paris to discourage car use. The Scottish Government needs to look at similar action to protect people's health here.

“Some of this air pollution has blown in from Western Europe, but it has added to our existing air pollution from road traffic. This current episode is a strong reminder that the Government needs to do much more to tackle Scotland's ongoing air pollution problem.

“The Government is currently consulting on a Low Emission Strategy to tackle air pollution. Whilst the Strategy is a step in the right direction, it lacks vision and clarity. We need the Strategy to commit to cutting traffic levels and cleaning up vehicle emission standards. We need better cycle and walking paths, cleaner public transport, and Low Emission Zones rolled out in our cities. Low Emission Zones are where the most polluting vehicles are banned from key areas of cities and have proven to be successful in several major European countries as well as in London.”

Mic Starbuck, 65, is an asthma sufferer living in Glasgow, where air pollution levels are expected to rise tomorrow (Wednesday 18th March). An episode of air pollution five years ago caused Mic to suffer an acute and prolonged attack of breathlessness which landed him in hospital for three days. He still attends as an outpatient.

“Although Glasgow is not currently the worst affected area in Scotland, I am already noticing increased tightness in my chest and I am having to use my inhaler much more. I do not want to end up in hospital again. My advice to asthmatics in the worst affected areas would be to take care and stay indoors. So far, whilst in Paris action has been taken, in Scotland there has been no response by the Government.”


Notes to editors:

[1] For live official air quality readings: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/

[2] For health advice based on traffic light banding system: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/air-quality/daqi

[3] Air pollution is a cause of:

– Lung and respiratory conditions, including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer: http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/books/sp161/index.php

– Heart and cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, unstable angina and heart failure  http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412

– Over 2000 early deaths in Scotland every year: http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607. (see Table 3 for Scottish figures)

[4] 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. www.foe-scotland.org.uk