It emerged recently that hotspots in key roads across Scotland are breaching EU legal safety standards and MSPs on the Climate Change committee are to probe whether enough is being done to crack down on deadly fumes.
It has been estimated that fumes can be a factor in 15,000 early deaths in Scotland every year.
Scotland’s worst polluted streets were revealed earlier this year, with St John’s Road in Edinburgh and Hope Street in Glasgow found in breach of the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide. The first low emission zones (LEZs) in Scotland, which would see “gas guzzling” lorries and trucks banned, are on course to be introduced in 2018, a Scottish Government Cleaner Air progress report said last month.
Graeme Dey, who chairs the Climate Change committee, said: “Not only can poor air quality impact our natural environment and wildlife, but it is also bad for our own health and is especially harmful for the young, elderly and people who already have heart and lung conditions.
“In fact, recent evidence suggests air pollution may be a contributory factor to 15,000 early deaths in Scotland each year.
“As part of our new inquiry, the committee wants to hear whether Scotland is doing all that it can to tackle toxic gases and how this fits into the overall plans to cut pollution within the UK and EU. It’s crucial that we have the best policies in place so that we can breathe clean air and protect the health of our future generations.”
The problem has worsened with the number of air quality management areas across Scotland rising to 38. Green MSP Mark Ruskell who has launched a members bill at Holyrood to introduce 20mph limits across the country says plummeting air quality is now a “public health crisis.”
He said: “Ministers are far too quick to pat themselves on the back for what they think is helpful spending on walking and cycling, when the reality is it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the billions they are pouring into measures that encourage more car use and more traffic pollution, which in turn causes heart attacks and lung disease.”
He added: “One easy action we could take is what my member’s bill proposes: drop the speed limit in built-up areas from 30mph to 20mph and this will reduce the pollution from diesel exhausts.
“There are many other actions we could take to improve air quality in our town and city centres but we need ministers to wake up and smell the toxic fumes.”