Statistics quoted by Rob Edwards show that the town of Paisley, Scotland is one of the 26 urban sites across Scotland that breached air pollution limits in 2012, putting millions of residents at risk of contracting pollution-related diseases.
Air samples from these sites showed that the polluted air contained toxic concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and tiny particles emitted from vehicular traffic. Experts noted that these levels are high enough to cause breathing difficulties and heart attacks.
Finally, similar figures calculated in 2013 show that about 3 000 people die every year from air pollution. These are staggering numbers, especially when compared to the 190 annual road accident deaths on Scottish roads.
Dr. Sean Temple, a leading air pollution expert from the University of Aberdeen, noted that there is substantial evidence that the “tiny particles produced by combustion engines are harmful to health,” and those individuals with “existing heart or breathing problems are particularly vulnerable.”
These pollution levels continued to climb unabated until 2017, when pollutions in the busy Renfrewshire streets, including Paisley, had reached record levels. Using the data collected from these areas, the Renfrewshire council designated these sites as Air Quality Management Areas or pollution zones and have come up with proposals to reduce the air pollution levels.
By way of expanding on this statement, let’s look at some of these proposals.
- Reduce the number of smokers
The Scottish government has set a target of creating a tobacco-free generation by 2034, with at most 5% of the Scottish population smoking. However, Cancer Research UK has warned that the Scottish government could miss this deadline with more than 1 in 10 people still smoking in 2034, especially in the more impoverished communities. Even though the Scottish government has stated that the numbers of smokers continue to fall, Cancer Research UK has noted that smoking rates must drop twice as fast for the government to reach its 2034 target.
Therefore, the question that begs is how does the Scottish government accelerate this process? The straightforward answer is to take a leaf out of Public Health England’s book. They have stated that vaping nicotine-based e-liquids or e-juice is 95% less harmful than smoking. And they are encouraging smokers to quit by transitioning to vaping instead of smoking.
- Reduce the number of cars, busses, and trucks on the road
The sciencing.com website states that vehicle pollution is one of the major causes of global warming and air pollution. Cars, busses, and trucks emit carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gasses, and particulates that are breathed in by residents, resulting in disastrous consequences as described above.
And evidence demonstrates that the primary contributor to Paisley’s high air pollution levels is road vehicle emissions. If road traffic is causing toxic air pollutants, then something must be done about the road traffic in order to reduce the toxic air quality. There are no other options. Thus, it is crucial to reduce vehicle emissions, especially along congested routes.
Succinctly stated, the best way to reduce air pollution is to reduce the number of motor vehicles on the road by investing in sustainable transport, cycle paths, and improving the walking conditions for pedestrians.
- Reduce air pollution from oil, power, and gas industry
Even though there are no longer any heavy industrial activities in Paisley, the oil, gas, and power generation industries are large in Scotland. If not carefully monitored, all three sectors can produce alarming amounts of air pollution that will spread across Scotland and contribute to the toxic air pollution levels in towns like Paisley.
The energyvoice.com website reported on 3 March 2020 that a north-east power station that uses gas to produce electricity has topped the list of Scotland’s air polluters. It was found to have emitted the country’s largest volume of CO2 in 2018. Figures showed that this power station released an average of 1.9 million tonnes was released into the atmosphere during 2018. This Aberdeenshire site ranked higher than the Grangemouth oil refinery that emitted 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that power-stations that generate electricity by burning either gas or coal also emit tiny particulates as a by-product of the burning process. Consequently, these particulates form part of the polluted air that is breathed in, resulting in health issues.
It is clear that air pollution is a severe challenge in Paisley and across the globe. And, in order to improve human health and well-being, it is vital to pay close attention to reducing air pollution levels continually and consistently. Otherwise, not only will breathing in the toxic air lead to the loss of life, but climate change and global warming caused by greenhouse gasses will lead to severe weather events, resulting in the loss of life and the reduced quality of life.