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Air quality targets being missed across Scotland

Environmental campaigners publish list of most polluted streets in Scotland and criticise Scottish government and local authorities for not doing enough to tackle problem

Scotland is still falling behind EU air quality targets that should have been met eight years ago, according to environmental campaigners.

Analysis by Friends of the Earth Scotland found that 15 air quality monitoring sites in the country measured annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels in breach of EU limits in 2012. Ten sites last year were also found to have breached annual mean EU limits for particulate matter PM10.

A Scottish government spokesperson said it was meeting air quality targets in most of Scotland, but there were some localised hotspots

A Scottish government spokesperson said it was meeting air quality targets in most of Scotland, but there were some localised hotspots

In 2011, 13 sites monitored annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels in breach of EU limits and annual mean levels of particulate matter were above limits at 18 sites across the country.

To highlight the issue, the campaign group yesterday (February 3) published a list of ‘Scotland’s most polluted streets’ and criticised the Scottish Government and local authorities for not doing enough to cut traffic and pollution levels.

However, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said national and European targets for air quality were being met “across most of Scotland”, while admitting that there are localised hotspots for pollution in some urban areas.

The worst levels of nitrogen dioxide in Scotland in 2012 were found at the ‘Glasgow Kerbside’ site near the central train station, which measured annual mean of 72.5 micrograms per cubic metre. The EU and UK standard for annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels is 40 micrograms per cubic metre, which was due to be met by 2005.

A spokesman for Glasgow city council said that the Kerbside result was higher because the monitoring site is situated at the roadside of one of the busiest streets for traffic in Scotland.

Aberdeen’s Wellington Road monitoring site had the worst annual mean levels of particulate matter PM10 in Scotland during 2012, with 27.6 micrograms per cubic metre. Edinburgh’s Salamander Street site had the second worst with 26.7 micrograms per cubic metre.

The Scottish annual mean objective for particulate matter PM10 is 18 micrograms per cubic metre, which was due to be met by 2010.

‘We need action’

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to people’s health, with fumes from cars, lorries and buses, killing off at least 10 times the number who die in road crashes every year.”

He added: “Some of these targets were set in the late nineties and supposed to be met in 2005, yet we still have air pollution at dangerous levels on streets across Scotland. Both the Scottish Government and our local authorities have failed to take this issue seriously for years and between them they need to do more than make promises they don’t deliver. We need action on traffic levels and the types of vehicles allowed on our most polluted streets.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We are meeting both domestic and European air quality targets across most of Scotland, although there are still localised hotspots of poorer air quality in a number of urban areas. Over recent decades there have been significant reductions in pollution emissions through tighter industrial regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport. We recognise that we must build on achievements to date and continue to take action to improve air quality across Scotland.”

Commenting on the high pollution levels monitored in Glasgow, the spokesperson added: “We are working closely with Glasgow city council, SEPA and other partners to improve air quality in Glasgow. A number of measures are being implemented to reduce air pollution in the city, including a commitment from Glasgow city council to introduce and enforce Low Emission Zones at the Commonwealth Games venues in 2014.”

A full list of ‘Scotland’s most polluted streets’ can be seen on the Friends of the Earth Scotland website.

Edinburgh city council is currently considering a number of measures to reduce congestion and air pollution in the city, including improvements to Waverley train station and the possible implementation of a Low Emission Zone (see airqualitynews.com story).

High levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide were measured in Glasgow during an episode in December 2012 due to cold and dry weather conditions, the Scottish Air Quality website found (see airqualitynews.com story).

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