Reacting to news that the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution, an official advisory body, is expected to publish results next year that air pollution is to blame for up to 60,000 early deaths every year across the UK [1], Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“The news that air pollution could be to blame for 60,000 early deaths every year across the UK is shocking and frightening for people living in urban areas. The new research suggests that the death toll from air pollution is double what experts previously thought, so the Scottish Government must redouble its efforts to tackle this silent killer.”

This research provides a fuller picture of deaths as it will take into account deaths from Nitrogen Dioxide, a harmful gas produced from engine combustion.  Previous research only accounted for deaths from fine particles (PM 2.5).

Ms Hanna continued,

“The Scottish Government has dragged its heels in tackling air pollution for years. Across Scotland there are 35 Pollution Zones where levels of air pollution are breaking standards which were supposed to be achieved in 2005. Every further year of delay has resulted in unnecessary early deaths.

“We are now starting to see signs of action with the Government promising to publish a Low Emission Strategy by the end of the year, but as far as we know, that Strategy will give no new money to Councils to fund some of the urgently needed measures to tackle air pollution.

“The Government urgently needs to produce a robust, fully funded Low Emission Strategy which has a clear commitment to a date by when we can breathe clean air in Scotland. [2] That Strategy needs to provide funding for Low Emissions Zones in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth. Low Emission Zones exclude the most polluting vehicles from city centres and can be used in conjunction with measures to improve walking, cycling, and public transport. There are 200 Low Emission Zones across Europe, and even one in London, but not a single one in Scotland.”


Notes to Editors

[1] The Sunday Times newspaper reported on Sunday 30 November that the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, an official advisory body, will publish a report next year showing that the premature death toll caused by road traffic pollution is around twice as high as originally thought, i.e. causing up to 60000 premature deaths across the UK. See Sunday Times New Article, “Dirty diesel death toll hits 60,000” at http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1489882.ece

[2] Speaking at a Scottish Transport Emissions Partnership event on 18th November, former Transport Minister Keith Brown announced Government plans to launch a draft Low Emission Strategy before the end of the year. For details, see http://scottishtransportemissionspartnership.wordpress.com 

[3] It was previously understood that the death toll from air pollution was 29,000 deaths per year, with over 2000 deaths in Scotland (see “The Mortality Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom”, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/304641/COMEAP_mortality_effects_of_long_term_exposure.pdf). This figure only accounted for deaths from fine particles (PM2.5). The new research will take into account deaths from Nitrogen Dioxide, a harmful gas produced from engine combustion. 

[4] Friends of the Earth Scotland wants the national Low Emission Strategy 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

[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, 74 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.