A report published today [23 February 2016] by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reveals that 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution each year across the UK, much higher than previous official estimates that air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths UK-wide. Based on this research, FoE Scotland calculate that this equates to between 2,500-3,500 deaths a year in Scotland.

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

“This new research shows that the previous official figure for how many people die early from air pollution underestimated the scale of the problem, and that air pollution is a much more serious public health crisis than previously understood.

“Based on this new research we can estimate that over 2,500 people in Scotland are dying early from air pollution each year. Breathing in toxic fumes increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Children, especially those growing up in urban settings, are forced to breathe in tiny harmful chemicals and studies have shown a link between exposure to nitrogen dioxide and children’s lung development. Air pollution can also cause developing foetuses to fail to grow to their full potential.

“Traffic is the main cause of today’s air pollution, so the solutions are simple, we need less traffic on the roads and vehicles need to have cleaner emissions. The Government must invest more money into sustainable travel modes like walking and cycling so that it is easier for people to do without a car. It must also roll out Low Emission Zones in each major city in the country by 2018, which would ban the most polluting vehicles from city centres.

“It is shocking that despite the overwhelming evidence showing that air pollution is a top killer and that traffic is the key cause, the Scottish Government continues to pour millions of pounds into unnecessary road building. When the Scottish Government decides its budget this Wednesday, this new evidence must make it reinvest a portion of its motorways budget back into walking and cycling projects.”



1. Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution. Royal College of Physicians, Feb 2016 https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution 

2. Previous official health research stated that over 2,000 people in Scotland, and 29,000 people in the UK die early each year from exposure to one key air pollutant, PM2.5 (For Scottish Figure, see Table 3, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332854/PHE_CRCE_010.pdf; For UK figure, see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/304641/COMEAP_mortality_effects_of_long_term_exposure.pdf). The new research from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health concludes that between 40,000-50,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution when Nitrogen Dioxide is also taken into account. Based on the new research, Friends of the Earth Scotland calculates that between 2,500-3,500 deaths in Scotland are from air pollution.

3. Scotland has 32 Pollution Zones where safety standards for clean air are not being met. http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/laqm/aqma

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland, together with five other organisations (Spokes, Transform Scotland, Pedal on Parliament, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Ramblers Scotland) has recently called on the Scottish Government to reallocate 1% of its roads and motorways budget to active travel in next year’s budget: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/active-travel-budget-pr

5. Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed Scotland’s most polluted streets where legal limits are being broken on 17th January: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/most-polluted-streets-2015 

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.