The killer fumes are estimated to be factor in around 2,500 early deaths across the country, according to environmental charity Friends of the Earth Scotland.
In fact, air pollution is responsible for an overall loss of approximately six months of life expectancy.
The East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership, which aims to promote health quality in Scotland, is now urging drivers not to idle their engines whilst stationary in traffic in a bid to minimise air pollution in Scotland’s most toxic streets.
Some streets have been identified by Friends of the Earth Scotland as the biggest offenders with unsafe and illegal levels of air pollution.
Idling causes high air pollution levels
In the short term air pollution poses a direct threat to asthma sufferers, with 62 per cent of people with the condition stating that traffic fumes aggravate their illness.
In the longer term, effects of air pollution can prove fatal.
Both petrol and diesel emissions contain chemicals such as carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) which are all known to cause cancer and other serious illnesses.
Tom Burr from the Switch Off and Breathe campaign, which works in partnership with The East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership, explains how idling has become one of the biggest culprits for polluting Edinburgh's streets.
“Air pollution, caused by transportation, accounts for up to 40,000 deaths within the UK each year,” he says. “This is more than 10 times higher than the annual number of fatal road traffic accidents.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that air pollution is responsible for one in eight global deaths.
In Scotland it’s a criminal offence to unnecessarily idle the engine when stationary and drivers could face a fine.
“The practice of vehicle idling, results in high running costs and air pollution levels for drivers,” adds Burr. “If each one of the estimated 80,000 cars on the road in Central Scotland idled for just 10 minutes a week, a staggering 416,000 litres of petrol could be wasted each year.”
Switch off wherever possible
Although some experts believe a total car ban may be the only way to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution in city centres, switching off engines whilst stationary for a prolonged period is a start to combating toxic air pollution.
Burr adds: “In order to reduce CO2 and other emissions, the first priority is to switch off wherever possible, but there are a number of other tips for doing so. The best way is to use the car only when it is necessary.”
“For example, instead of using it for short journeys, consider walking or taking public transport where possible. Try planning journey routes to avoid congestion, combine trips, or perhaps car sharing.”
For more information, visit Switch Off and Breathe