COVID-19 restrictions mean Scotland meets Air Pollution legal limits for first time

Friends of the Earth Scotland has revealed that 2020 will be the first year that Scotland did not record any air pollutions levels over legal limits within certain streets. 

Although air pollution levels had been improving even before the pandemic, the sudden fall last year came when the first lockdown in March removed most vehicles from city centres where air quality levels are monitored.

Analysis of the data has shown steep drops in pollution, particularly on commuter roads into the biggest cities.

The air quality data, and traffic figures, show that the improvements in air quality due to Covid-19 restrictions were short-lived and pollution soon returned to high, pre-pandemic levels. However, the drop in the Spring was sufficient to bring the annual average down considerably on 2019 levels.

Official air pollution data for 2020 was analysed, looking at Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and PM10 which are primarily produced by transport. Legal air quality standards, which came into force in 2010 and have been breached every year, have now been met for the first time in Scotland.

Friends of the Earth Scotland analysed data from the Automatic Monitoring Stations around Scotland.

Data have been ratified from January 2020 – September 2020. Data with 70% data capture and over has been included. The monitors were a combination of roadside and kerbside monitors. It should be noted that at different sites, exposure levels to the general public will be different.

Campaigners say this shows the clear link between car journeys and pollution levels, and that Scottish Government needs to work with Local Authorities to ensure these reductions can be maintained sustainably.

Read Friends of the Earth Scotland press release here.

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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