Air Pollution Health Expert Welcomes New Low Emission Zones

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LEZs to be introduced in Edinburgh, Aberdeen & Dundee city centres.

New Low Emission Zones are coming into force in Dundee city centre today, with Aberdeen and Edinburgh introducing them on June 1st.

This has led a leading Scottish expert on air pollution to warmly welcome the initiative. Professor Jill Belch OBE, a professor of vascular medicine at the University of Dundee, said the health benefits of the LEZs would be seen in as little as two years’ time.

Prof Belch has dedicated years of her life to researching environmental issues and how they impact the public’s health, and is looking forward to seeing the positive effect the changes will make.

She said, “For those who may be a little concerned, it's important to remember that if you drive a non-compliant car, then you are polluting – and not just the pavement.”

“You're actually polluting yourself, your family and your children because the air pollution is three times higher in a car than it is on the pavement.”

Prof Belch and her team began researching air pollution after noticing it was bringing many patients to hospital.

“We looked at all the hospital admissions in the whole of Tayside, and we matched them to the pollution levels,” she said. “We found that on days of high pollution, there were far more admissions for things like respiratory infections, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure - and this was really worrying because air pollution is invisible, and people just don't realise how seriously it affects our health.”

“Many people also do not realise that the effects of air pollution on children, including unborn babies, are permanent”, said Prof Belch.

“Children are growing, so they have lots of growing cells. They run around outside a lot, and the air pollution damages these cells and they never recover. If you have a baby in the womb and air pollution gets in, the baby's brain is not going to develop properly.”

“The University of Aberdeen has done some fantastic work looking at the size of babies’ brains, showing that in high polluted areas the brains are smaller.”

“Your lungs don't grow properly when you're a child with air pollution, so you're condemning that child to asthma, chest infections and other horrible chest diseases. It's tremendously important to have these LEZs to protect not only the adults, but especially our children.”

Prof Belch said the impact of the LEZs will be measured.

“Once you introduce an LEZ, you will begin to see health benefits. We hope to look at all the LEZs that have been introduced across Scotland and in two years’ time, be able to show that hospital admissions have gone down for diseases such as asthma and childhood chest infection.

“One of the difficulties with air pollution is that it is invisible, so you don't actually know that you're being damaged until it's too late.”

If you are the owner of a non-compliant vehicle, you could get a penalty charge notice of £60 (which will double for subsequent offences).

Check your vehicle is complaint and read more about LEZ exemptions.

Cash incentives and Travel Better credits are also available to both households and businesses if non-compliant vehicles are removed from the road, or to help retrofit these, backed with £5 million in funding. Read more about the support available and how to apply here.