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Friends of the Earth Scotland have warned that Scotland is in the grip of an air pollution episode, with levels of toxic Particulate Matter breaking World Health Organisation and Scottish regulatory safety standards across many parts of the Central Belt, with the East particularly affected. 


Unsafe levels of Particulate Matter are currently being recorded on official monitors in: Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian, Falkirk, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and Renfrewshire.


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


“Toxic Particulate Matter has blown in from the South of the United Kingdom and has added to the pollution pouring out of car and lorry exhausts on our streets. Still, calm weather in England produced a build up of traffic-derived air pollution, which is now travelling to Scotland. The air pollution episode is creating dangerous conditions, especially for vulnerable people with lung or heart problems. 


“The official health advice that accompanies the levels currently being experienced across the Central Belt is that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.


“The levels being recorded by monitors are in breach of World Health Organisation and Scottish safety standards, which were due to have been achieved over a decade ago.”


The episode is forecasted to head North over the weekend, with Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar, Highland Council, Moray, Perth & Kinross, the Shetlands, and Stirling expected to have unsafe levels tomorrow and over the weekend.


This Screenshot shows the levels of Air Pollution in Scotland at 10:30am, Friday 27 January. Yellow and orange indicate a level of Particulate Matter in breach of the Scottish safety standard, with vulnerable people (i.e. with heart or lung conditions) are particularly at risk to its effects. 

Traffic-derived air pollution, mainly composed of fine particles and toxic gases, has been linked with cancer, allergies, asthma, strokes, heart attacks, restricted foetal development, damaged lung development in children, and more recently, the onset of dementia in adults. It causes 2500 early deaths in Scotland each year, and is second only to smoking in terms of its mortality impacts.


Hanna continued,


“We have a right to breathe clean air, and the toxic levels of pollution are seriously damaging our health, despite a legal obligation on the Scottish Government to tackle this problem. Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, and motorised transport is the  key culprit. The Scottish Government needs to stop pouring millions into new motorways and trunk roads, and start getting serious about funding walking and cycling, and improving public transport.


“The Scottish Government has promised us a Low Emission Zone by 2018, and local politicians are beginning to show willing for a zone, but the Government needs to make a public commitment that it will provide funding for these zones.


Friends of the Earth Scotland recently broke the news that Scotland continues to break legal limits, with more official Pollution Zones than ever before. 





Notes to Editors


[1] The air pollution readings were taken from the Scottish Government’s official air quality monitoring website: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/ at 10:30 a.m. on Friday 27 January 2017. The forecast was also take at this time: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/latest/forecast-summary. This press release has been produced on discussion with air pollution forecasters at Ricardo AEA who run the Scottish Government’s air pollution monitors. The two main pollutants of concern are PM10 and PM2.5. 


[2] For official government health advice about air pollution levels: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/air-quality/daqi


[3] The key pollutants causing this episode are expected to be small particles (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5). Often in the form of soot from diesel and petrol engines, you can see Particulate Matter (PM) as a dark, dirty coating on surfaces in towns. Any concentration has a negative effect on health.


[4] Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed Scotland’s most polluted streets on 15th January 2017. They also disclosed that there are 38 pollution zones across the country. http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/most-polluted-streets 


[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] 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.