SCOTLAND’S busiest streets are failing to meet air pollution targets, according to new figures from environmental campaigners.
Friends of the Earth Scotland criticised all levels of government for failing to reduce toxins in the air that were meant to be curbed by 2005.
Glasgow had the worst levels of nitrogen dioxide in 2012 with a measure of 72.5 at a monitoring station near the city’s Central Station, compared with a European standard of 40.
Aberdeen’s Wellington Road had the highest level of particulate matter, with 27.6 microgrammes per cubic meter, compared with a Scottish target of 18.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said action was needed on traffic levels and the types of vehicles allowed on the roads.
He said: “Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to people’s health, with fumes from cars, lorries and buses, killing off at least ten times the number who die in road crashes every year.
“Some of these targets were set in the late Nineties and supposed to be met in 2005.
“Both the Scottish Government and 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.”
Scotland’s “most polluted streets” were measured according to EU and UK standards of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide. Fifteen locations failed this measure, while ten failed to meet Scottish air quality objectives set in 2010 for particulate matter.
Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the airways of the lungs and increase the symptoms of lung diseases. Fine particles can cause inflammation and worsen heart and lung diseases.
But Glasgow City Council disputed the ranking and said the location of the kerbside monitor was busy with traffic and an unfair measure. While it was worst for nitrogen dioxide, it was sixth worst for particulates.
A spokesman said: “Air quality has improved significantly in Glasgow over the last few decades. The city council’s Air Quality Action Plan will continue this trend.
“It should be noted that the Glasgow Kerbside monitor is located immediately beside traffic and is in no way representative of the air quality levels found across the rest of the city.”
But Dr Dixon said that commuters waiting at bus stops or taxi ranks, or passing along Argyll Street under Glasgow Central, would all be exposed to these high levels of pollutants.
He said: “There is a set of automatic measuring stations in Scotland, some rural, some urban background and some kerbside or roadside.
“The urban background ones are probably a reasonable reflection of the levels around people’s homes while the roadside ones are more likely to be places people pass through or work in, or of course drive through, since car drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and bus passengers are going straight through the worst of the pollution.
The Scottish Government insisted they were meeting domestic and European air quality targets, but admitted there were localised “hotspots” of bad air quality in urban areas.
A spokeswoman said: “We recognise that we must build on achievements to date and continue to take action to improve air quality across Scotland.
Ten most polluted streets in Scotland
South Lanarkshire Raith Interchange
Aberdeen Wellington Road
Edinburgh St John’s Road
Dundee Lochee Road
Perth Atholl Street
Aberdeen Union Street
Edinburgh Queensferry Road
Paisley Central Road