Dozens of deaths in Dundee have been linked to air pollution following an analysis of government data.
It is estimated 55 people in the city died from long-term exposure to potentially deadly air toxin PM2.5 in 2017 – more than 3% of city deaths that year.
Dundee was superseded by Glasgow and Edinburgh when it came to poor air quality but had a higher pollution-related death rate than Aberdeen, which has a larger population.
The figures were revealed by the Centre for Cities’ annual study of the UK’s major urban areas, which took UK government data on concentrations of PM2.5 across cities in the UK, calculated the risk posed to people, then multiplied it to give the estimated number of adult deaths linked to the toxin, including due to cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and strokes.
The method was created by Public Health England.
Proposals are currently under way for Dundee City Council to create a low-emission zone in the city centre, meaning only vehicles that meet stringent air quality criteria would be allowed to enter.
Andrew Llanwarne, co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Tayside, said: “These figures are scary but not surprising.
“If it was anything else causing this many deaths there would be urgent action taken, but because air pollution is so insidious and often invisible, it’s difficult to get people to take it seriously.
“A low emission zone would be a start, although it’s taken a long time for Dundee City Council to act.
“We hope this would be followed by more initiatives such as a park-and-ride, and more promotion of walking and cycling.
“Even if they exclude high-polluting vehicles from the city centre, they can still go elsewhere in Dundee.”
In Dundee, Lochee Road and Seagate have been named among the most polluted streets in Scotland.
Part of the problem is down to the structure of these areas, with high buildings on either side of narrow roads trapping polluted air.
Atholl Street in Perth has also been previously named as one of the worst affected.
Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action.
“People in Scotland should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.”
A spokesperson for Dundee City Council said the local authority was “in no way complacent” about air quality.
He added: “The issue of improving air quality in Dundee for residents and visitors is one that is high up our agenda and various agencies in the city, including the council, are working on a number of measures to ensure emissions of PM2.5, other particulates and Nitrogen Dioxide are reduced.
“One key part of that is the work of the Dundee Low Emission Zone delivery group and its engagement with a variety of stakeholders aimed at meeting the Scottish Government’s clean air targets and giving the city safer, more convenient streets with improved air quality.”