Second air pollution episode this year strikes Scotland

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Only weeks into the new year and Scotland is in the midst of its second pollution episode of 2017, warns Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Today (Wednesday, February 15) levels of toxic Particulate Matter are breaking World Health Organisation and Scottish regulatory safety standards across much of the Central Belt and the North East of Scotland.

Unsafe levels of Particulate Matter are currently being recorded on official monitors in: Aberdeen, Angus, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Perth, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, and West Lothian. The levels are especially high in Edinburgh and Falkirk.

Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “This is the second high pollution episode in the space of a month in Scotland, because it was not predicted by the Government’s official forecasting service, it has taken the country by surprise.

“Toxic Particulate Matter has climbed to unsafe levels due to pollution blowing in from the south east combining with the fumes pouring out of car and lorry exhausts on the streets here in Scotland. The current hazy and still weather conditions have stopped the pollution from dispersing. Fortunately, as the winds are set to pick up again from the south west tomorrow, the pollution episode should start to clear.

“The air pollution episode is creating dangerous conditions, especially for vulnerable people with lung or heart problems.”

The health advice that accompanies the levels of pollution being experienced in Aberdeen, Angus, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Fife, Glasgow, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Perth, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, and West Lothian is as follows, said Hanna:

“The official health advice that accompanies the levels currently being experienced in these Councils is that adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.

The health advice that accompanies the higher levels of pollution being experienced in Edinburgh and Falkirk is as follows, said Hanna:

“The official health advice that accompanies the levels currently being experienced in Edinburgh and Falkirk is that people with lung and heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People who are otherwise healthy and don’t usually notice pollution are also advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if they experience symptoms such as coughs or a sore throat.

“The levels being recorded by monitors today are in breach of World Health Organisation and Scottish safety standards, which were due to have been achieved over a decade ago.”

Traffic-derived air pollution, mainly composed of fine particles and toxic gases, causes thousands of early deaths in Scotland each year and is second only to smoking in terms of its mortality impacts. It has been linked with cancer, allergies, asthma, strokes, heart attacks, restricted foetal development, damaged lung development in children, and more recently, the onset of dementia in adults.

Hanna continued:

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Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

“These toxic levels of pollution are damaging our health in a shocking variety of ways and the Scottish Government was legally obliged to ensure clean air by 2010. Traffic is a key culprit of today’s pollution, so the Government needs to get serious about making it easier for us to walk, cycle, and use public transport.

“We welcome news that the European Commission has today issued a final warning against the UK Government for their failure tackle our air pollution crisis. The Scottish Government is ultimately responsible for making our air safe to breathe in Scotland. Ministers have promised a Low Emission Zone by 2018, and local politicians are beginning to show willing for a zone, but the Government needs to make a public commitment that it will provide funding for these zones.