A dangerous air pollution episode is expected to hit many parts of the central belt tomorrow (17/3/16), peaking on Friday 18th, with some areas still affected on Saturday 19th. Toxic levels of Particulate Matter are expected to smash World Health Organisation and Scottish Regulatory safety standards in fifteen Council areas in Scotland.

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

“Air pollution is expected to blow in from the East and combine with the heavy air pollution pouring out of car and lorry exhausts on our streets. The weather is expected to be still and calm on Friday, which means that the air pollution will have nowhere to go, creating dangerous conditions with our air much more damaging than usual. People with lung or heart problems and older people will be especially vulnerable to this toxic stew.

“The expected pollution levels will be exceptionally high and in some places will be potentially dangerous for people who are otherwise healthy as well as at-risk individuals.”

***Please note that different areas of Scotland are forecast varying levels of pollution so the resulting health advice is different***

Hanna continued,
“The official health advice for Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, and Stirling on Friday is that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and if they experience symptoms. Asthma sufferers should make sure they are carrying their inhalers as they may need to use them more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion. Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.

“The official health advice for the expected pollution levels in East Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, West Lothian on Friday is that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.”

Friends of the Earth are calling on the Government to take concerted action to tackle this episode and Scotland’s air pollution problem. Emilia Hanna concluded,

“To tackle the worst of tomorrow and Friday’s dangerous pollution impacts, the Government should advise people to avoid driving and adding to the problem. In the longer term, it must introduce measures to reduce traffic levels on our streets. Toxic air pollution episodes like this show that the Scottish Government is not doing enough to address the public health crisis of our dirty air. This kind of air pollution causes over 2000 early deaths each year and costs the Scottish economy over £1.1 billion.

“The next Scottish Government needs to bring in measures to discourage people from using their car such as parking levies on large destinations like supermarkets, congestion charging and city-wide 20mph zones. It should commit to bringing in Low Emission Zones in key cities by 2018, so that the most polluting vehicles are kept out of our city centres. By investing 10% of its transport budget on walking and cycling it would give sustainable transport a chance to really thrive in Scotland.


Images from Scottish Air Quality website 

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. Wednesday 16 March). For live readings, see http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/

According to the forecast read at 10:15am Wednesday 16th March, World Health Organisation air pollution levels safety standards are expected to be broken as follows:

On Thursday 17th March in Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Fife, Stirling, West Lothian (with a “Moderate” level, meaning that at-risk individuals may experience symptoms but the general population may not.)
On Friday 18th March in Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling (with a “High” level, meaning that otherwise healthy individuals and at-risk individuals may experience symptoms) and in East Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, West Lothian (with a “Moderate” level)
On Saturday 19th March, in Fife (with a “High” level) and Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Perth and Kinross, West Lothian (with a “Moderate” level)

[2] For official government health advice about air pollution levels: 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). Often in the form of soot from diesel and petrol engines, you can see Particulate Matter (PM) as a dark, dirty coating on surfaces in towns. Any concentration has a negative effect on health.

Every year in Scotland, over 2000 deaths are attributable to exposure to PM2.5, with an attributable 300 deaths in Glasgow and 200 in Edinburgh: Public Health England, “Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution” (2014), Table 3 at p 20: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332854/PHE_CRCE_010.pdf
Long-term exposure to PM2.5 has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and increases the risk of mothers giving birth to low birthweight babies: “Long term exposure to ambient air pollution and incidence of acute coronary events: prospective cohort study and meta-analysis in 11 European cohorts from the ESCAPE Project” British Medical Journal, http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412 and “Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE)” The Lancet, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(13)70192-9/abstract
The Scottish Government does not yet regulate PM2.5 but has committed to regulating it in 2016/17 (see “Cleaner Air for Scotland”, Heading H1 page 86: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00488493.pdf).
The Scottish Government currently only monitors PM2.5 at fourteen locations across Scotland.
The World Health Organisation guidelines for PM2.5 is that the annual mean must not exceed an average of 10 μg/m3 (microgrammes per cubic metre), and that the daily mean must not exceed 25 μg/m3 (microgrammes per cubic metre).

[4] The Scottish Budget for 2016/17 spends twenty times as much on building new motorways and trunk roads as is allocated to walking and cycling. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/budget-reaction-2016

[5] Transport Scotland statistics show that in 2014 Scots drove a record number of kilometres, and there were more cars on the roads than ever before. Overall public transport usage rates are at the same level as a decade ago and bus patronage has actually fallen 10% in the last 5 years. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/transport-stats-feb16

[6] Air Pollution Photos for press use are available on our Flickr account. They show people on a morning commute wearing gas masks and struggling to breathe against a backdrop of a gigantic gas mask banner on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/albums/72157657667112136

[7] FoES has recently launched the ‘Fossil Free Scotland’ campaign which aims to secure a just transition to a 100% renewable, nuclear-free, zero-fossil-fuel Scotland www.fossilfree.scot

[8] 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.