Aberdeen streets among Scotland’s most polluted

Aberdeens Union Street.
Aberdeens Union Street.
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Aberdeen streets have featured in a list of Scotland’s most polluted streets, published today by Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The list shows that streets in many parts of Scotland continue to have unsafe and illegal levels of toxic pollution seven years after a legal deadline and despite a Government plan to comply with clean air obligations.

Aberdeen’s Wellington Road and Union Street featured as the third and sixth most polluted streets in Scotland for Nitrogen Dioxide, with annual average levels of 46 and 43 microgrammes per cubic metre respectively. The legal limit, which was due to be met back in 2010, is 40. King Street featured as the fourth most polluted street for Particulate Matter, with an annual average level of 19 microgrammes per cubic metre, above the safety standard of 18.

There are three official Pollution Zones in Aberdeen where Scottish safety standards are regularly breached: one in the City Centre, one on Anderson Drive, and one on Aberdeen Wellington Road, all declared for elevated levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10).

Traffic-derived air pollution, mainly composed of fine particles and toxic gases, 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. It causes 2500 early deaths in Scotland each year, and is second only to smoking in terms of its mortality impacts.

The results of Scotland’s most polluted streets for 2016:

Nitrogen Dioxide

Top 9 most polluted streets for nitrogen dioxide in 2016.

Figures in microgrammes per cubic metre (μg/m3).

Glasgow Hope Street - 65

Edinburgh St John’s Road - 49

Aberdeen Wellington Road - 46

Dundee Seagate 46

Cambuslang Main Street - 45

Aberdeen Union Street - 43

Edinburgh Queensferry Road - 42

Glasgow Dumbarton Road - 42

Perth Atholl Street - 40

The European Ambient Air Quality Directive set a limit for NO2 of 40μg/m3, so all these sites are breaking the legal limit. The deadline for compliance was January 1, 2010.

Particulate Matter (PM10)

Top 7 most polluted streets for Particulate Matter in 2016

Figures in microgrammes per cubic metre (μg/m3).

Perth Atholl Street - 21

Edinburgh Queensferry Road - 20

Edinburgh Salamander St - 20

Aberdeen King Street - 19

Crieff High Street - 19

Falkirk West Bridge Street - 19

Edinburgh Glasgow Road - 18

The Scottish air quality objective is 18 (μg/m3), so all these sites fail the objective.

The Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 required this objective to have been met by 2010.

Friends of the Earth Aberdeen coordinator Gregor McAbery said: “Clearly there is still work to be done to clean up Aberdeen’s air. The air we breathe poses a health risk, especially for people with respiratory illness like myself. We welcome the bus and cycle only plans for Broad Street as an early step towards bringing forward the more attractive and cleaner city centre envisioned in the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan.

“It is just a pity that we have a proposal still on the table to build a six lane bridge at Bridge of Dee. That proposal clearly will induce more traffic into the city and increase air pollution, whilst not actually making the Ruthrieston side of the junction any safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We need to do more to enhance walking,cycling and public transport routes, and move towards low carbon transport fuels like hydrogen or electricity for heavy vehicles and cars alike. The large number of short car journeys with one person per car is simply unsustainable.

“There can be no doubt that a nationwide phase out of diesel would be very helpful for reducing nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland Air Pollution Campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “Air pollution from traffic is a public health crisis, claiming thousands of lives each year and particularly harmful for small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty. For people living in an official Pollution Zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life. It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities are not tackling this public health crisis with the seriousness and urgency required. The Scottish Government has promised a “plan” for Low Emission Zones by 2018 but needs to make a public commitment that it will provide significant funding, so that local councils can get on with making serious plans to clean up the air in their area. Councils will be reluctant to introduce a Low Emission Zone unless they know there will be funding to help set them up.

“In addition to Low Emission Zones, the Scottish Government must introduce measures to cut traffic from our streets. It can achieve this by a combination of providing more safe walking and cycling paths, supporting public transport to cut congestion, and taxing or banning polluting traffic from the worst areas.

“Our addiction to cars is killing us. But it’s those who tend not to drive who are worst impacted by pollution: children, the elderly, and those living in poverty. The Scottish Government’s zeal for road building is worsening the problem. It is pouring billions of pounds into road building, which keeps the car dominating transport choices. It has to shake up its priorities if it wants to tackle the scourge of air pollution.

“Other cities have shown that pollution can be tackled. In Seville, pollution levels were cut in half via the introduction of 80km of segregated cycle routes. In London, the Mayor has promised to introduce an ultra low emission zone a year ahead of schedule as well as taxing polluting cars via a T-charge. In Paris, the Mayor has just announced plans to cut the number of polluting cars in half.”