Hundreds of deaths in Scots cities ‘linked to air pollution’

Poor quality air contributed to one in every 29 deaths in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, study found.

Long-term exposure to air pollution caused more than 600 deaths in Scotland’s biggest cities in a year, according to an annual study.

Poor-quality air accounted for more than one in every 29 deaths in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen in 2017, the Cities Outlook 2020 study found.

Edinburgh was the worst-affected city with deadly toxin believed to have contributed to around 3.7% of all adult deaths – a total of 157.

Glasgow, the country’s biggest city, saw 3.4% of deaths – total of 354 people – linked to pollution.

In total, an estimated 628 were killed partly from exposure to toxins in the four cities.

The proportion of deaths in Scottish cities linked to air pollution is lower than the rest of the UK, as experts say emissions being blown over the Channel from continental Europe is a big factor.

Half of council leaders polled by Centre for Cities, the research and policy institute which led the study, highlighted the environment as a major concern.

But the organisation said progress had been slow and that “more must be done” to prevent avoidable deaths.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “More than half of people in the UK live in cities and large towns.

“And while they offer people good employment and lifestyle opportunities Cities Outlook 2020 shows that they also having a damaging effect on their health, with air pollution killing thousands of people living in cities every year.

“Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action.

“People in Scotland should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said a number of measures were being taken to tackle air pollution.

She said: “We are improving air quality across the country and have seen significant reductions in pollution emissions over recent decades through tighter industrial regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport.

“Compared to the rest of the UK and other parts of Europe, Scotland enjoys a high level of air quality and we have set more stringent air quality targets. Low Emission Zones (LEZs) will help further improve air quality in towns and cities by preventing access by the dirtiest vehicles.

“We made more than £18m available in 2019-20 to support local authorities and fleet operators with the financial costs of establishing and preparing for LEZs. We will continue to provide support in order to protect public health.

“We are also working to tackle poorer air quality in some parts of Scotland and have made £2.5m of funding available annually to local authorities in order to support action plan development and implementation.”

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