Air pollution is out of control again.
If I were to walk from Aberdeen’s St Nicholas Centre to Union Square via Market Street, I would suffer an asthma attack later that night. That’s a fact.
Even though I live and work in the city, there are entire sections of it that I must avoid completely to keep myself safe.
Those microscopic particles of poison are invading every part of our bodies – even getting into our bloodstreams.
So, we can acknowledge that deadly air pollution is one of the biggest public health problems facing us today. But, what can we do beyond pressing the Scottish Government to commit to bolder clean air targets and improving public awareness?
Air pollution reduces life expectancy
Air quality is down to unacceptably low, pre-pandemic level. Union Street was recently named one of the dirtiest streets in the UK, and data shows that as many as 3,500 die from toxic air in Scotland every year. Government statistics also estimate that air pollution reduces life expectancy by seven to eight months.
There are thousands like me living in the north-east affected. Around 40% of asthma sufferers are likely to endure acute episodes on days where pollution is particularly bad.
And, by exposing our children to dirty air, we are storing up major health problems for the future.
This is a shameful situation and, quite frankly, we could all be doing more, especially when you consider that most of these particles come from our cars.
Potential future nightmare does not need to become reality
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation is in discussions with groups like Friends of the Earth Scotland, the country’s leading data scientists, and politicians who are passionate on this issue about forming a “common sense council” on air pollution.
And on July 1 we are holding a conference at the University of Aberdeen, to kick-start a fresh conversation around this issue.
We are holding a conference on the impact of air pollution on health with particular emphasis on respiratory health.
Friday 1st July @17:00 at The Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen
— Asthma and Allergy Foundation (@aaf_info) June 27, 2022
Toxic air in Scotland is a killer and puts thousands of people at risk of developing life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups.
We need to start taking this issue more seriously. Are we just going to keep going until Aberdeen and other Scottish cities resemble one of the post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies where everyone needs a mask to breathe? We want life expectancy to be going up, not down, as it is in some Asian capitals.
This nightmarish vision doesn’t have to become reality. But we need to start taking bold and creative steps before it is too late.
- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation is Scotland’s only dedicated asthma charity. Its What’s In The Air? conference starts at 5pm on July 1 at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen
Martina Chukwuma-Ezike is CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, and Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen