Toxicity

Glasgow is an undeniably great city. But what is it best at? Arts? Culture? Sport? Nope. Turns out Glasgow is currently number one in the UK for pollution.

A recent study has shown that not only Glasgow is the most polluted city in the UK – specifically, pollution caused by nitrogen dioxide – but also ranks 5th in Europe for pollution caused by the toxic gas. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) found that Glasgow was one of only 10 cities in Europe to breach the limits for the harmful gas; Glasgow’s levels were 46.3 microgrammes per cubic metre, above the legal European limit of 40mg/m3. Nitrogen dioxide is given primarily off by car exhaust fumes and industrial pollution. In humans, exposure to this kind of pollution can cause an increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, as well as worsening existing respiratory conditions like asthma. In addition, Professor Jacqueline McGlade – EEA executive director – stated, ‘European Union policy has reduced emissions of many pollutants over the last decade, but in many countries, air pollutant concentrations are still above the legal and recommended limits… [and] air pollution reduces human life expectancy by around two years in the most polluted cities and regions.’ The damage it can cause to the environment includes acid rain and eutrophication (sudden algae growth, which decreases oxygen levels in water). Nitrogen dioxide also reacts in the atmosphere to create low level ozone, which is essentially a major cause of smog. London – in the heat of similar issues several years ago – introduced a congestion charge which has helped to reduce the cities pollution levels. WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon has been one of many suggesting the introduction of a similar charge here, ‘congestion charge for Glasgow has been proposed before and is working well in reducing pollution in London. I would like to see it introduced here.’ Leader of the Scottish Green Party, and MSP for Glasgow Patrick Harvie felt that a ‘culture of delay and inaction’ was to blame for the development of this situation, and stressed the need for increased investment in public transport. ‘At the heart of the solution is providing reliable, clean buses and trains and safer routes for cycling and walking. We need to see a much greater sense of urgency from councils and the government’. Turning these solutions into reality however is bound to be a long process, so don’t hold your breath, although you might have to.

[Suki McFarland]

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