Four Dundee streets among the most polluted in Scotland

Friends of the Earth Scotland has highlighted findings from  the Scottish Government’s regular monitoring of air quality, which show that Dundee has several streets which are in the top 15 of the most polluted in Scotland.  More details are provided in this report in the Courier on 4 February, and in this article from the Sunday Herald on 3 February covering the wider Scottish picture.

Meadowside, Seagate, Lochee Road and Whitehall Street “are well above air pollution targets for nitrogen dioxide which should have been met eight years ago”, says the Courier.  And Perth is not left out, with Atholl Street number 5 on the list of the most polluted streets.  And, as shown further down this page, these figures don’t tell the whole story – which is much worse for those using these streets during the rush hour.

It’s worth reading the editorial in the Sunday Herald covering this subject.  It makes the following important statement – which can be applied to most aspects of Scottish Government policy (and, indeed, UK Government policy) on the environment:

” in the Scottish Government’s long-awaited plans to cut climate pollution published last week, transport is by far the weakest link.

Ministers have nearly halved the carbon reductions expected by transport proposals by 2020, and have made some heroic assumptions about as-yet-unknown breakthroughs that are going to deliver massive reductions in 2025-27, causing critics to wonder whether they are banking on personal jetpacks or Star Trek-style transporter beams.

This isn’t going to work. Without major reductions in transport pollution, all the Government’s fine and oft-repeated words about world-leading climate targets will be meaningless. It has to match its ambitions with actions to cut car use.”

It’s the same with the Government’s target of having 20% of short journeys made by bike by 2020, where much more serious action and investment is needed to achieve the shift from the car to the bike.  And of course it’s the same with the carbon emission reduction targets themselves.  It’s all very well to set “world-leading targets”, but if you don’t make radical changes in government investment practices and public behaviours that caused the problems in the first place, then you’ll never get there.

And then there is the Scottish Government’s admirable policy on restricting the use of woody biomass to small CHP or heat-only plants using primarily locally sourced fuel – which is totally the opposite of the current proposals for allocating government subsidies (ROCs) which would provide over £200m per year to Forth Energy if it gets planning consent for its three massive and highly inefficient biomass power stations, producting primarily electricity plus a little heat (to get through the loophole), burning trees cut down in forests and plantations around the world.

On air pollution, it should also be pointed out that the published figures don’t give the full picture.  They are daily averages for air pollution, which balances out the peaks during the two rush hours with the moderate levels of pollution during the rest of the day, and the very low levels during the night.  So the pollution inhaled by the large numbers of people commuting in to and out of Dundee, Perth, and the other cities is far higher than these statistics suggest.

This is clear from the details on the Government’s air quality monitoring website.  Click on the little flag on the map for Seagate, and then click on the Graphing tab below the map.  This shows the latest readings for Nitrogen dioxide and PM10 (tiny particles, mostly produced by diesel engines).  It’s hard to see the exact figures, but the daily fluctuations are enormous.  So on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 February, the level of PM10 went up to around 50 ugm (micrograms) per cubic metre (the publilshed average is 14.2), whilst on Saturday and Monday the level of NO2 went up to around 160 ugm (the published average is 50.4).  Look at the 30-day graph and it’s even worse, with PM10 reaching about 95  ugm on 17 January.  This compares with the air pollution safety limit for PM10 of 18 ugm, and for NO2  40 ugm.

Therefore, the concentrations of these pollutants during the busiest times of the day, when most people are exposed to the air, is frequently around 3 or 4 times the Government’s target for average levels.

And of course if the biomass plant goes ahead, it will add to this air pollution, particularly particulates!