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‘New normal appears to be the old normal’: Air pollution on rise in post-lockdown Dundee

dundee air pollution
A congested Lochee Road.

Air pollution worsened in Dundee in 2021, with two streets in the city among the worst for toxic fumes in Scotland.

Lochee Road and Seagate were the second and fifth-worst streets in Scotland, respectively, last year for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions.

That’s according to data captured by Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Hope Street in Glasgow was the worst in the country for NO2.

Pollutants have risen last year after a dip in 2020 because of lockdowns.

Hope Street in Glasgow suffered the worst air pollution in Scotland in 2021.
Hope Street in Glasgow suffered the worst air pollution in Scotland in 2021.

Campaigners have called for more measures to curb car use.

Dundee City Council has outlined measures to reduce emissions on Lochee Road. And it is hoped the upcoming Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in the city centre will see improvements in Seagate’s air quality.

How bad are things in Dundee?

The average reading of NO2 in Seagate was 30.136 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air) last year.

This is a rise from the the 28.483 µg/m3 in 2020.

At Lochee Road, last year’s average was 31.8 µg/m3.

Despite being among the worst figures in the country, they do not breach Scottish Air Quality Objectives.

Friends of the Earth estimates air pollution is responsible for the deaths of 2,500 people a year in Scotland.

Perth-based scientist Jill Belch has calculated that poor air quality plays a part in at least 7,600 hospitalisations in Dundee and Perth annually.

Professor Jill Belch.
Professor Jill Belch.

Dundee artist Leslie Martin gave up her car nearly 10 years ago to do her bit to improve air quality.

In her driving days she was able to push her contribution to the problem to the “back of my mind”, Leslie admits.

“I believed it was necessary for me to get around,” she said.

Leslie Martin at an exhibition of her artwork.
Leslie Martin at an exhibition of her artwork.

“Since I sold my car, I’ve experienced air pollution in a more personal way.

“I’m more often on foot or my bike and… you really notice it. Especially when you’re near traffic lights and more congested areas.”

But Leslie says drivers have to worry as well.

“There’s been less awareness of the issue of air pollution inside your car, which is really concerning,” she added.

Leslie hopes by ditching driving herself she can encourage others to give up their cars.

She added: “There are more options than some people think.

“For me, I can get to my workshop and most places I need to go on my bike and there’s a car sharing service for when I need to go further afield.”

‘Residents need to know action is being taken’ on air pollution

West End councillor Richard McCready has long campaigned for improvements on air quality in the city.

He is “appalled” to learn pollution is on the rise again.

He said: “The new normal appears to be the old normal.

“The LEZ is important, but the proposals for Dundee cover a relatively small area in the city. It cannot be the only show in town.

Councillor Richard McCready.
Councillor Richard McCready.

“Residents on Lochee Road need to know that action is being taken.”

The Labour councillor wants to see greater promotion of active travel such as walking and cycling to drive down emissions.

He added: “We are living in a climate emergency and a public health crisis caused by poor air quality. We need to see action.

“These statistics are unacceptable.”

What measures are being taken to reduce air pollution?

A low emission zone is to be introduced in the city this year.

The scheme will ban the worst-polluting vehicles from the city centre, including Seagate.

Dundee City Council has also outlined plans to improve air quality on Lochee Road.

Proposed measures include widening sections of the road to improve traffic flow.

As congested traffic is a cause of toxin build-up, it is hoped having flowing traffic will improve air quality.

Bosses at bus operator Xplore also chose to introduce their new all-electric buses on the Lochee Road route as a “statement of intent”.

Is Covid-19 to blame for skewing the figures?

Kevin Cordell is Dundee City Council’s convener for community safety and public protection.

While stressing he “fully understands” the importance of improving air quality, he said this year’s figures are “not surprising” given 2020’s lockdown-induced reduction.

He said: “After a considerable amount of work, this year will see the introduction of the city’s first LEZ, which, when combined with the work of various other agencies, will help to improve air quality across Dundee.”

Five of the most polluted streets in Tayside and Fife