As a public consultation on transport plans for Glasgow’s city centre closes this Saturday, campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland warns that the plans do not go far enough to fix the city’s air pollution problems, which are killing 300 people a year. (1)

Friends of the Earth Scotland has dubbed air pollution Scotland’s “silent killer”. Traffic is the key cause of Glasgow’s air pollution. A reduction in traffic and tougher vehicle emissions standards are needed to improve public health and increase life expectancy.

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

“Glasgow’s air is poisoned with chemicals and particles. Today’s pollution is invisible and dangerous, causing asthma, strokes, heart attacks, cancer, and shortening life expectancy. But people don’t have a choice over what they breathe in, air pollution is forced upon us.

“Everyone knows that traffic is the main cause of Glasgow’s toxic air, but the new transport plans skirt around the issue of air pollution. There are good plans to introduce new cycle routes and tree-lined Avenues, and these measures are small steps in the right direction. But it will take much more than small steps to deal with what is now a major health crisis. The City Council must take bold strides to tackle air pollution head on by dealing with traffic levels and dirty vehicle emissions. The final version of the City Centre Transport Strategy needs to commit to reducing traffic levels and moving forward with a Low Emission Zone. Tough action on traffic levels would make the city centre a much more pleasant place to live, work and visit, as well as saving lives.

“The time to act on air pollution is now. Glasgow is named in two separate legal actions for failing to reduce levels of air pollution, and 300 people each year die from exposure to air pollution, so there is a moral and legal imperative to act.”

Key positive parts of the City Centre Transport Strategy include:

The creation of Avenues, i.e. tree-lined roads with wider pavements and separate segregated cycle routes;
A network of cycle routes across the city centre;
A 20 mph zone across the city;
New bus gates, including one between Nelson Mandela Place and George Square.

Air pollution worsens asthma, increases the chances of having a stroke or heart attack and has been named by the World Health Organisation as the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths. (2) Glasgow is the most polluted city in Scotland, and the Council has declared that across the city levels are breaking Scottish standards. (3), (4). In February this year, the European Commission commenced legal action against the UK for failing to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide levels to within binding legal limits in several UK cities including Glasgow.(5) In April this year official government statistics were published that showed fine particles alone are responsible for over 300 deaths each year in Glasgow alone. (6)

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

 

(1) Glasgow City Council’s City Centre Transport Strategy Consultation can be found at http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/consultations, and Friends of the Earth Scotland’s response can be found at http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1834

(2) The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide, 7 million people each year die prematurely due to exposure to air pollution and has named air pollution as the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

(3) Glasgow City Council has declared 4 Air Quality Management Areas (“AQMAs”) which are zones where levels of air pollution are in breach of Scottish air quality standards. One air quality management area spans the city centre area, one is on Byres Road/Dumbarton Road, one is at Parkhead Cross, and in 2012 an AQMA spanning the entirety of the city was declared for Small Particles. For further details and maps of the see the City Council’s Air Quality Progress Report of 2013 at http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/localairqualitymanagement

(4) In January, Friends of the Earth Scotland identified Glasgow’s Hope Street as Scotland’s most polluted street from Nitrogen Dioxide: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1744

(5) In February 2014 the European Commission started legal action against the United Kingdom for failing to bring levels of Nitrogen Dioxide to within legal limits by the deadline under EU Law in several cities across the UK, including in Glasgow (air pollution levels were meant to be brought to within the legal limit by 1 January 2010). (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-154_en.htm)

(6) Air pollution from one type of pollutant (PM2.5s, also known as fine particles) kills an equivalent of 308 people in Glasgow each year and is responsible for 1 in 20 deaths in Glasgow according to statistics produced by Public Health England in March 2014: http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607, http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1821

(7) 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