Drivers urged to switch on to switching off to help save tens of thousands of lives.
Every year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution – and it’s the young, the elderly and those who are already ill who bear the brunt of the risk.
Sixty-two per cent of Scottish asthma sufferers say traffic fumes, which contain including carbon monoxide (C0), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), aggravate their condition.
“Most people think that CO2 is the harmful component of exhaust gases,” said Tom Burr of East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership’s Switch Off and Breathe campaign.
“CO2 is important for its contribution to the greenhouse effect and global warming, but it’s not what causes ill health. Exhaust fumes contain other chemicals and particulates that long-term exposure to have been linked with causing cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases.”
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) published last year lists Glasgow as exceeding limits set on the amount of dangerous PM10 allowed in the air we breathe. Many other Scottish cities and towns are also breaching WHO safe levels, and poorer neighbourhoods, which are typically closer to large roads, are exposed to the bulk of them.
The Switch Off and Breathe campaign is encouraging drivers to make one small change to make a big difference to the quality of the air we all breathe: turn off the engine whenever stationary for more than a few minutes.
According to the campaign, for every two minutes a vehicle is idling, it uses the same amount of fuel it would take to drive one mile. Switching off when possible, then, also saves money.
Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, published by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Working Party on Air Pollution, highlighted the need to take action.
“It should be considered a major public health problem. If we do not act now, our children and generations to follow will be those who suffer,” said Professor Stephen Holgate, chairman of the group.
The report said there was clear evidence that exposure to air pollution as a child can damage the lungs, and increase the risk of potential fatal lung infections. It is known to have an effect on heart health in adult life.
“Research is beginning to point towards effects on growth, intelligence, asthma, and development of the brain and coordination,” said the report.
For more information on the Switch Off and Breathe campaign, go to www.switchoffandbreathe.org