Today the House of Commons has published a damning report on UK air pollution which slams the Government’s failure to tackle air pollution across the UK and Scotland as “unacceptable”.[1]

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

“The Environmental Audit Committee has rightly condemned the UK Government in the strongest terms of being guilty of failing to tackle air pollution. Toxic traffic fumes are a silent killer, responsible for thousands of early deaths every year. This report is spot on in saying that the damage to our health from air pollution is unacceptable.”

The report follows a legal ruling last month from the European Court of Justice that the UK and Scotland are in breach of European law to reduce levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, a dangerous gas caused by traffic, to within legal limits. [2]

Earlier this year, an official report found that air pollution is responsible for the equivalent of 2000 deaths in Scotland each year. [3]

Miss Hanna said,

“Tackling air pollution is a matter of life and death. It is unbelievable that in spite of a legal case which has found that we are breaking laws to clean up air pollution, and in spite of the evidence that over 2000 Scots are dying early every year from toxic gas, the Scottish Government is still planning on spending 200 times as much money on building new roads as on stopping air pollution.”

“Today's report makes a number of recommendations which the Scottish Government as well as the UK Government should now act upon. The Scottish Government has promised us a Low Emission Strategy to tackle air pollution. This Strategy must be robust, have a clear timetable for action and commit to a date by when Scotland will have clean air. Today's report has confirmed that we have waited far too long for action. With 2000 Scots dying every year from air pollution, we cannot afford to wait any longer.”

When the Strategy is finally published, Friends of the Earth Scotland want it to include:

– A clear commitment to a date before 2020 by which Scottish cities will have clean air
– Additional funding for local authorities to be able to implement Low Emission Zones, improve walking and cycling infrastructure, and retrofit or upgrade bus fleets.
– A Framework to roll out Ultra Low Emission Zones in cities across Scotland, so that the cars, LGVs, HGVs and buses are excluded [6]
– Targets to increase the number of journeys taken by public transport, walking, and cycling


Notes to Editors

[1] The Environmental Audit Committee's Report can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvaud/212/…. The Environmental Audit Committee is “appointed by the House of Commons to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public
bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development; to audit their performance against such targets as may be set for them by Her Majesty’s Ministers; and to report thereon to the House”

[2] In a landmark ruling on 19 November, the European Court of Justice confirmed that we have a right to breathe clean air and that the UK is breaching this right: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/european-ruling-air-pollution

[3] Health impacts of air pollution:

Air pollution from fine particles (PM2.5) is responsible for an equivalent of over 2000 deaths each year in Scotland, according to research by Public Health England: http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607. The Scottish figures are in Table 3.
In 2013 the WHO’s specialized cancer agency, the IARC, classified the cocktail of air pollution as carcinogenic to humans and named it as a leading cause of cancer deaths: http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/books/sp161/index.php
In January 2014, research from a European study found that long-term exposure to small and fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) increases the risk heart attacks and unstable angina: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412
Ambient air pollution has also been linked with restricted foetal growth in European countries, which is linked with adverse respiratory health in childhood: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213- 2600(13)70192-9/abstract
Air pollution across the UK as a whole costs the NHS between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year: Defra, The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (July 2007)

[4] Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed a list of Scotland’s most polluted streets in January 2014 where pollution levels are breaking Scottish Standards. See http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1744

[5] 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