Leader comment: WHO report on air pollution demands renewed action

When doctors start warning the very air we breathe is a “lifetime threat to human health”, surely we can all agree it’s time to start taking serious action.

When doctors start warning the very air we breathe is a “lifetime threat to human health”, surely we can all agree it’s time to start taking serious action.

The largely unseen clouds of toxic smog that shroud many of our towns and cities are responsible for cutting short the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. And, in a report published today, the World Health Organisation lists city after city in breach of safety limits, although one of the authors stresses there is actually no safe level.

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Some may disagree that climate change is a pressing reason to stop burning fossil fuels, but saving lives should be uncontroversial. The switch from petrol to electric cars and the general transition to a low-carbon economy is already underway and gathering pace as the cost of renewables energy plummets.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 – eight years before the UK Government plans to do the same.

But the WHO’s report shows the need to press the accelerator on such moves, so we can all breathe a little easier.