Health and air pollution in Scotland

Publication Date: 08 June 2017

With the effects of air pollution on human health becoming better understood and more widely known, Health Protection Scotland are pleased to be supporting the UK’s first ever National Clean Air Day 2017 on Thursday 15 June.

Air pollution affects everyone’s health but the impact is greater on vulnerable people such as the very young and old and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Children are especially vulnerable due to their still developing bodies, especially their lungs, which may be permanently damaged at an early age by exposure to harmful pollutants.

Air pollution affects people’s everyday health and ability to lead a normal active healthy life, especially if they already have poor lung health (such as asthma or chronic obstructive airways disease) or circulation problems (angina, strokes, heart attacks). There is also some evidence linking air pollution to poor birth outcomes (low birth weight, pre-term birth), chronic illness such as diabetes and possibly some neurological problems (such as dementia).

Scotland already has the highest rate of lung disease in the UK, particularly in our cities and urban areas. Heart disease is also more common in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Air pollution adds to this burden of illness as well as adding a lot to the costs of health services.

Levels of air pollution in Scotland have reduced compared to the decades before 2000 and in general, levels are gradually reducing further. However, road traffic related pollution now represents the biggest man made component of air pollution that could be reduced more quickly if everyone took some action on National Clean Air Day and routinely afterwards.

The National Clean Air Day website has lots of ideas and materials to help people take action to reduce air pollution further.