A dangerous air pollution episode is expected to hit most parts of Scotland tomorrow (Wednesday 1st July), with air safety standards forecasted to be broken in 31 councils across Scotland. [1] This will be the third air pollution episode of the year with others having already occurred in April and March.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“The official health advice for the expected levels of air pollution is for people with heart and lung problems such as asthma or emphysema, who experience symptoms, to consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.” [2]

Hanna warned that whilst people with existing respiratory problems were at increased risk tomorrow, the public’s health is damaged by air pollution every day and not just on days when pollution is high:

“Regular exposure to the levels of pollution that we see day in, day out on city streets in Scotland increases the risk of people having a heart attack or stroke. Most disturbingly, air pollution impacts on foetal development, with newborn babies more likely to have lower birth weights if expectant mothers are exposed to air pollution throughout pregnancy. Air pollution causes 2000 early deaths every year in Scotland.” [3]

Ground-level ozone is understood to be the key pollutant of concern during this episode, with levels predicted to break World Health Organisation safety guidelines. Ozone is considered to be among the most irritating gases to humans, and exposure to high levels can cause respiratory symptoms, reduce lung function, and cause inflammation of the airways. [4]

“Some of this air pollution will have blown in from elsewhere but it is adding to the heavy air pollution caused by traffic on our streets. To combat the worst of tomorrow’s air pollution impacts, the Government should advise people to avoid driving. But it must also introduce longer term measures to reduce traffic levels on our streets.”

“The Government recently announced that it would work with a local authority to develop a Low Emission Zone. This is a welcome step, but we need to see this plan in action, and fast. The Government should focus its attention on Glasgow City Council where 300 people die early every year from air pollution. The Government must also ramp up its measures to support improvements in walking, cycling and public transport.” [5]

“Tackling air pollution will save lives and reduce costs to the NHS, in addition to helping Scotland meet its climate change emission targets.”

Notes to editors:

[1] The air pollution forecast has been taken from the Scottish Government’s official air quality monitoring website: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/forecast-summary (forecast viewed at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday 30th June). For live readings, see http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/.

Every Local Council except for Eilean Siar is expected to experience levels of air pollution breaking WHO safety standards

[2] For official government health advice about air pollution levels: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/air-quality/daqi

[3] Health impacts of air pollution:

Long term exposure to levels of air pollution below the current legal limits increases the risk of heart and cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, unstable angina and heart failure http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412
Ambient air pollution has been linked with restricted foetal growth, which is linked with adverse respiratory health in childhood: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(13)70192-9/abstract
Exposure to fine particle air pollution causes an equivalent of 2000 deaths in Scotland annually: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil…

[4] The World Health Organisation Guideline for Ozone is for concentration levels not to exceed 100 μg/m3 in an 8-hour mean: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2006/WHO_SDE_PHE_OEH_06.02_eng.pdf?ua=1 (p 14). For health impacts of ground-level ozone: World Health Organisation, “Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution – REVIHAAP”, p 13: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/182432/e96762-final.pdf.

Ground-level ozone is caused by the sun reacting with other chemicals including Nitrogen Dioxide, which is an output of traffic exhaust. Nitrogen Dioxide levels are breaking legal limits in several parts of Scotland including in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Perth. Earlier this year, the UK Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to take immediate action to tackle illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide pollution and to draw up new air pollution plans by 31 December 2015: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/glasgow-air-pollution-legal-victory

[5] A Low Emission Zone is an area, typically in a city centre, where vehicles need to comply with tight emissions standards or pay a fine. Low Emission Zones have been shown to reduce air pollution in cities across Europe. For more information: http://sootfreecities.eu

[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. www.foe-scotland.org.uk