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Scotland braced for high air pollution

Regions such as East Lothian, Fife and Scottish Borders expected to be hit with high particulate matter pollution

High air pollution levels which have spread across the UK this week are expected to hit the East coast of Scotland today (March 17) and over the weekend, prompting a warning from Friends of the Earth Scotland for residents with respiratory problems in these regions to take extra care.

Scotland air pollution map March 2016

Image of today’s (March 17) forecast in Scotland taken from official Scottish Air Quality website (click to enlarge)

The forecast in Scotland for today points to a risk of high (7-9 on the scale) and very high (10) particulate matter pollution in regions such as East Lothian, Fife and the Scottish Borders, while the likes of Clackmannanshire, Edinburgh, Perth and Kinross are at risk of moderate (4-6) pollution levels.

Moderate pollution levels will also remain in several of these areas tomorrow (March 18), but East Lothian and Fife are currently forecast to once again experience high levels of particulate pollution on Saturday (March 19), before falling back down to low by the end of the weekend.

The highest levels of pollution are expected at busy roadside and urban areas, according to the Scottish Government’s air quality website service, due to a combination of dry settled weather creating poor dispersion conditions.

This is likely to cause local sources of pollution to build up with “air flows from the east bringing over already polluted air from the European mainland”, the forecast states.

Similar meteorological conditions have been experienced recently across other parts of the UK, with high levels of particulate pollution also affecting Stockton-on-Tees in North East England earlier this week (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Advice

Friends of the Earth Scotland warned that the conditions north of the border today and over the weekend meant that existing air pollution from road traffic, for example, “will have nowhere to go, creating dangerous conditions with our air much more damaging than usual”.

“People with lung or heart problems and older people will be especially vulnerable to this toxic stew. The expected pollution levels will be exceptionally high and in some places will be potentially dangerous for people who are otherwise healthy as well as at-risk individuals” – Emilia Hanna, Friends of the Earth Scotland

Air pollution campaigner for the environmental group, Emilia Hanna, said: “People with lung or heart problems and older people will be especially vulnerable to this toxic stew. The expected pollution levels will be exceptionally high and in some places will be potentially dangerous for people who are otherwise healthy as well as at-risk individuals.”

She said that adults and children with lung and heart problems, asthma sufferers and older people should reduce physical exertion – particularly when outdoors – in some of the areas more seriously affected by pollution levels.

In addition, she said the government should advise people to “avoid driving and adding to the problem” during the episode, and in the long term introduce more measures to reduce traffic, such as bringing in low emission zones in key cities by 2018.

She said: “Toxic air pollution episodes like this show that the Scottish Government is not doing enough to address the public health crisis of our dirty air. This kind of air pollution causes over 2000 early deaths each year and costs the Scottish economy over £1.1 billion.”

The Scottish Government published a wide-ranging, 94-page Clean Air Strategy in November, which sets out plans to bring in statutory limits on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) with the aim of being compliant with EU air quality limits by 2020 (see AirQualityNews.com story).

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