Air quality on Scotland’s most polluted street grew worse in the past year

Glasgow, Hope Street. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow, Hope Street. Picture: John Devlin
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Air quality on Scotland’s most polluted street grew worse in the past year, according to new analysis from environmentalists.

The latest data on air pollution analysed by Friends of the Earth Scotland has revealed an increase in air pollution levels at Hope Street in Glasgow. Experts from the charity have warned of a worsening pollution crisis as results show a breach of legal safety limits in seven areas across Scotland.

Toxic fumes at levels seen on Scottish streets caused mainly by transport are responsible for more than 2,500 early deaths every year. Air pollution has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, and cancers as well a low birthweight.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has ranked the country’s most polluted streets for 2018, and the results show there has been “very little progress” in reducing toxic air pollution. Scotland has been breaking legal limits on air pollution since 2010.

Scotland’s first low emissions zone was established in Glasgow in 2018. However, levels of poisonous gas nitrogen dioxide at Hope Street have increased since the previous year to 50 per cent higher than the legal limit of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Low Emission Zones are areas where the most polluting vehicles stay out or pay a fine. Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone has been heavily criticised as lacking in ambition.

The new figures also show legal air safety standards are being breached on busy roads in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and two areas are breaking the statutory limit for tiny particles known as PM10s.

Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “These shocking figures show that the air pollution health crisis is getting worse in many areas. With streets in Scotland’s cities still at illegal levels of air pollution, the Scottish Government’s ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ strategy has failed to deliver. Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh must have Low Emission Zones in place by 2020 and this data shows the scale of the problem that these zones must tackle. Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone, which only impacts a small number of buses initially, is hugely disappointing and will make no difference in its first year.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “We have seen significant reductions in pollution emissions through tighter industrial regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport.”

She added: “We recognise that a few hotspots remain and are working to address this.”