Illegal levels of air quality found in Edinburgh’s most polluted streets

pollution article photo

(Photo credit: Friends of the Earth Scotland)


As many as four streets in Edinburgh have been found to be breaching European regulation for pollution, according to recent findings provided by ‘Friends of the Earth’.

The most recent analysis carried out has determined that air quality in the busiest areas of both Glasgow and Edinburgh has worsened in the past year, with figures in Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter rising above the legal limit. The latest insurgence means that air pollution is now 50% higher than what is legally accepted by the government and is set to increase given the areas use for cars and busses.

Edinburgh’s Queensferry Road was the highest on record for the contamination of Nitrogen Dioxide with a figure of 51 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3). Shortly behind was Nicolson Street, one of Edinburgh’s most congested streets for traffic, which gave a reading of 49 mcg/m3. The European ambient air quality directive allows for there to be a maximum of 40 mcg/m3, however with St Johns road showing a reading of 46 mcg/m3, it is now currently the city’s third street in violation of NO2 regulation.

Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter are the only two measures of air pollution and can only be impacted directly by fossil fuel engines.

Edinburgh is the one city in Scotland going over the Scottish air quality objective for Particulate Matter, which is capped at 18mcg per cubic metre. Both Queensferry Road (26mcg) and Salamander Street (21mcg) were the only two areas in the city breaching the capped limit.

Gavin Thomson, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, claims “the Scottish Government’s ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ strategy has clearly failed to deliver” and draws attention towards the impact these results have on health.

He said; “Air pollution is responsible for over 2,500 early deaths every year in Scotland. It has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, and cancers, and vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly and those already suffering ill health are at particular risk. The health evidence on the impact of air pollution is overwhelming. We need to act now.”

The Scottish government has enforced a low emission zone (LEZ) in Glasgow, setting emission standards which are compulsory for up to 20% of busses that pass through the city centre. Similar zones are set to be introduced in Edinburgh by 2020 despite environmentalists claiming it will have very little impact within the next year.

Chas Booth, the green councillor for transport, claims the recently published figures are “absolutely avoidable”.

He said; “With bold action both from the council and the Scottish government we could be significantly reducing the air pollution and the toxic air that our citizens are forced to breathe every day. With significant investment in active travel and a boost for public transport, we could be getting a proper grip of this epidemic.”

Despite multiple environmentalist groups drawing serious concern towards the issue, the Scottish government insist Scotland still has better air quality than most countries in Europe and continue to persist with strict targets.



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