Levels of toxic ground level ozone are expected to break World Health Organisation and Scottish regulatory safety standards across most of Scotland this week (Monday 28 May – Friday 1 June) according to Scotland’s official air quality forecasting service.

Air masses from Northern continental Europe are expected to bring increased levels of pollution to the UK and Scotland. In addition, ground level ozone is expected to form in rural parts of Scotland in the sunny weather. Scottish statutory safety standards are expected to be broken in many areas across Scotland through the week.

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“The air pollution forecast is predicting a wide spread of pollution across Scotland which, if it materialises, will see air masses coming in from northern continental Europe combining with toxic fumes from our own car and lorry exhausts, leading to increased levels of air pollution, in particular, ground level ozone. Sadly a sunny day in the countryside could be the last thing any sensitive person needs this week.

“People with existing lung or heart conditions are the most at risk from this air pollution episode. If the forecast becomes a reality, the official health advice is that adults and children with lung and heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider limiting strenuous physical activity, especially outdoors.

“These toxic levels of pollution are a serious threat to health and the Scottish Government was supposed to meet ozone standards by 2005. Traffic is a key culprit of today’s pollution, so the Government needs to get serious about making it easier for us to walk, cycle, and use public transport, and delivering on its Low Emission Zone promises.”

The following screenshots show the forecast for the next 5 days, taken at 11:41a.m. on Monday 28 May

Notes to Editors:

  1.  The air pollution forecast was taken from the Scottish Government’s official air quality monitoring website at 11:41 a.m. on Monday 28 May: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/ which includes forecast maps for each of the next five days. When the Government calls the pollution level for ozone ‘moderate’ it is already above Scottish standards.
  2. For official government health advice about air pollution levels: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/air-quality/daqi 
  3. The key pollutant causing this episode is expected to be ground-level ozone. It is important to distinguish between stratospheric ozone and ground-level ozone. Stratospheric ozone, known as the Earth’s “ozone layer” plays a crucially important role in making the planet habitable by absorbing harmful solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation. By contrast, ground level ozone is toxic to humans and been linked with respiratory illness. It occurs when chemicals produced through fossil fuel combustion react together under the action of sunlight. Ironically, ground level Ozone is often highest in rural areas, away from urban centres where the chemicals leading to ground level Ozone have been emitted.
  4. Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed Scotland’s most polluted streets on 21st January 2018: https://foe.scot/press-release/polluted-streets-list-2017/
  5. Health impacts of air pollution:
    – Friends of the Earth Scotland estimate that 2500 people die early each year from air pollution in Scotland alone: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/RCP-Report
    – Air pollution, at levels seen on Scottish streets, has been linked with :
    – Respiratory illness including asthma and COPD
    – Heart attacks and strokes
    – Low birthweight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed
    – Poor lung development in children
    – Dementia
    – Children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and sick are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
    – (for more, see the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 report, “Every Breath we Take: The lifelong impact of air pollution”: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution)
  6. [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.