Work still to be done to reduce particulate matter in towns and cities, State of Scotlandâ€™s Environment report concludes
An estimated 2,094 deaths are attributed to air pollution in Scotland every year, according to the 2014 State of Scotlandâ€™s Environment Report.
The report, which was published to coincide with World Environment Day (June 5), is written by some of the countryâ€™s leading environment and health agencies and is the first major update since data was produced in 2011.
The online document contains five main chapters: air, land, water, climate, and people and the environment. For each topic the report assesses environmental conditions and changes, reasons for these and what is being done to solve any problems.
It shows that while air quality has improved â€˜significantlyâ€™ in Scotland since the 1950s, there are some areas of towns and cities where the level of air quality remains a concern. Of the 2,094 deaths each year, 306 are localised to Glasgow and 205 to Edinburgh.
Since 2000, levels of nitrogen oxide has fallen 45% to 98,000 tonnes and PM10 particulate matter down 31% to 12,000 tonnes.
The report goes on to find that the main challenges are emissions from transport, energy production and industry, with vehicles in urban areas contributing largely to increasing levels of particulates and nitrogen oxides.
To combat the pollution, there are 92 air monitoring sites currently set-up in Scotland which are mostly operated by local authorities â€“ with some run as part of a UK-wide network.
Although urban background PM10 concentrations have been declining as a whole since the early 1990s, there is considerable annual and daily variation across sites. In 2012, PM10 concentration was exceeded at 12 sites.
The report concludes that more effective transport policies are needed as part of the policy and legislative measures that aim to reduce air pollution.
It follows Edinburgh city councilâ€™s plans to introduce 20mph speed limit restrictions on residential streets to curb air pollution, as part of the Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019 (see airqualitynews.com story).
Commenting on the report, David Pirie, executive director from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said: â€œâ€œI am very pleased that overall, the State of the Environment Report paints a positive picture for Scotland, highlighting that our environment is generally of good quality.
â€œWe canâ€™t afford to be complacent; however, as the Report does also show that there remain challenges such as localised air pollution and threats to some habitats and wildlife. Scotlandâ€™s environment is a rich resource relied on by all of us and enjoyed by many. But we must use that resource responsibly.â€