Falkirk’s West Bridge Street is one of Scotland’s seven most polluted streets – and the town centre, Grangemouth and Banknock are “unsafe”.
The local air quality health hazards are flagged up in a new report from environment watchdog Friends of the Earth (FoE), which says around 2,500 Scots are dying every year from the effects of pollution.
Exhaust fumes have been linked with cancer, allergies, asthma, strokes, heart attacks, restricted foetal development, damaged lung development in children and the onset of dementia in adults.
FoE says air pollution is second only to smoking as a silent killer.
In Falkirk there are council-designated Air Quality Management Areas, where it’s considered air quality objectives are either not being met or are unlikely to be met.
These include the Grangemouth petrochemical complex and nearby areas, included for sulphur dioxide emissions; part of Falkirk town centre, for nitrogen dioxide; part of Banknock, for particulate matter; and the part of Bankknock and Haggs which includes the junction of the A803 and M80.
All of these sites have failed to reach objectives laid out in the Air Quality (Scotland) Amended Regulations 2002, which should have been met by 2010.
FoE 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. I
“It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.”
She says neither the Scottish Government nor councils are taking the issue with the urgency needed, adding that five new pollution zones have been added to the roster of shame since last year.
“The Scottish Government has promised a ‘plan’ for Low Emission Zones by 2018,” she added, “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.”
FoE Scotland also wants the Scottish Government to bring in measures to cut traffic in built-up areas by providing more safe walking and cycling paths, supporting public transport to cut congestion, and either taxing or banning polluting traffic from the worst areas.
Ms Hanna added: “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.”