Leading air quality researchers at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Inquiry into air quality in Scotland.

Air pollution is associated with human health effects, including heart disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer, and is also implicated in damaging the environment and crop productivity. The CEH submission is based on world-leading atmospheric pollution monitoring and modelling research and aims to inform the committee consider what, if any, further action should be undertaken. The full evidence submission is available via the Scottish Parliament website but the main points of the evidence made include the following:

  • As there is no ‘safe level’ of exposure to fine particles, even the comparatively low levels of exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Scotland, pose a substantial health risk. See the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) Report for details on health effects and options to reduce PM2.5 concentrations in the UK[1].
  • The transboundary nature of contributions of emission sources to the formation of PM2.5 concentrations in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK means that emissions of ammonia, nitrogen dioxides and sulphur dioxide emissions may originate in continental Europe; evidence for this can be found in CEH observations[2] and modelling[3][4][5][6][7][8][9].
  • A focus on reducing population exposure to air pollution rather than achieving compliance at (few) existing monitoring sites may be more effective in achieving long-term air quality improvements with regard to population risk due to elevated levels of air pollution.
  • Consider key reports that provide a broad view of the status and impacts of air pollution and cross-reference with the current policies, namely:

Review of Transboundary Air Pollution (RoTAP) (2012) - Further information, including both the full RoTAP report and a separate Summary for Policy Makers report, are available at http://www.rotap.ceh.ac.uk/

The Annual European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) reports

  • As secondary fine particles are formed by interactions between NH3, NOx and SO2, an integrated approach to addressing all relevant sources of air pollution is needed, both domestic and internationally.
  • A Scotland-wide early warning system for the population in general, and vulnerable groups specifically, could be implemented based on modelling activities at appropriate spatial scales. This could be an efficient way to provide early warning to citizens, as well as improve the utilisation of health care facilities and infrastructure. A current pilot project investigating the use of air quality modelling to inform GP practices and hospital A&Es about forecast air pollution events, funded under the Improving Health with Environmental Data[9] initiative by the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, NERC and MRC could provide a blueprint for such activities.

[1] https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat11/1212141150_AQEG_Fine_Particulate_Matter_in_the_UK.pdf
[2] Twigg et al. - https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/15/8131/2015/acp-15-8131-2015.pdf
[3] Vieno et al. 2016a - https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/044004
[4] Vieno 2016b - https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-265-2016
[5] Vieno et al. 2014 - https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-14-8435-2014
[6] Vieno et al. 2016a - https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/044004
[7] Vieno 2016b - https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-265-2016
[8] https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/important-foreign-contribution-uk-particulate-matter-pollution
[9] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/innovation/activities/environmentaldata/health-call/

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