The quality of air around us is affected by substances released into the atmosphere through human activities, such as transport and industry, as well as from natural sources such as sea salt and volcanic activity.
Sources of air pollution - Clean air for Scotland
View data using the UK Air Quality Tool
View the Air quality standards and objectives
Find out more information about Air quality and health
The learn about air teaching package contains interactive teaching material, classroom activities and lab experiments to make learning about air quality fun. Packages are tailored for primary schools and secondary school Geography and Science, bringing in an element of citizen science to the pupils by encouraging then to monitor air quality around their schools using low-cost air pollution sensors.
Case study on changing behaviours to improve air quality. SEPA, in partnership with North Lanarkshire Council and Education Scotland, has developed an air quality teaching package, based around the Curriculum for Excellence, in the form of a dedicated website learn about air.
Primary schools and secondary schools can view data collected by air quality sensors to monitor pollutants outside of their school. The secondary school travel application allows students to visualise travel survey data they collect in the learn about air secondary school package. It allows pupils to see the air quality ‘footprint’ of their classes journey to school and see how they compare to other schools across Scotland. The virtual city application helps students consider how different travel choices and fuel types can affect their air quality and how future choices can improve poor air quality areas.
Transport is the most significant source contributing to poor air quality in urban areas. Although emissions from transport have declined over the years, the rate of decline has started to level off. So without additional measures to tackle transport-related pollution, it is possible that emissions will begin to increase again. These measures include:
Considerable progress has been made over recent decades in controlling emissions from industrial sources. Robust legislation and stringent operating conditions, combined with technological developments and decline in heavy/manufacturing industry, have significantly reduced national emissions. Further developments in technology and legislation will continue to drive down emissions.
In Europe more people die as a result of poor air quality than in road traffic accidents. It is the main cause of preventable illness and premature death in the EU from an environmental source. Poor air quality also affects the environment, so, the European Union (EU) has adopted a series of legislative measures to reduce air pollution.
There are two main pieces of EU legislation dealing with air pollution:
The European Commission reviewed the EU’s air quality policy and legislation, and in 2013 a revised Clean air policy package for Europe was published. The main components of the package are:
The UK’s Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was developed to improve air quality in the UK, to protect our health and the environment. It sets UK standards and objectives for reducing a series of pollutants. For some pollutants Scotland has adopted more stringent objectives than the rest of the UK. The strategy sets out the UK’s system for Local Air Quality Management (LAQM). The LAQM system has recently been reviewed and the revised system and accompanying guidance released during 2016.
Find out about the national approach Scotland is taking to tackle air pollution and achieve Cleaner air for Scotland.
Scotland has recently introduced legislation to implement WHO guidelines for PM2.5.
Local authorities must:
At present, 14 local authorities in the most densely populated areas of Scotland have declared AQMAs. The number of areas declared has increased from 26 in 2011 to 34 in 2016 and it is expected that this number may continue to rise in the future. Most AQMAs have been declared due to emissions from traffic.
This page was reviewed on 11 Apr 2017
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Health Protection Scotland (HPS) – provides advice, support and information to health professionals, national and local government, the general public and a number of other bodies on health concerns associated with air quality.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – regulates and monitors certain industrial activities in Scotland that can generate airborne pollution. SEPA’s work involves working with and directing local authorities and other partners to manage and improve air quality. It also provides policy and operational advice to government, industry and the public on pollution control and other environmental issues.
Scottish Local Authorities – responsible for managing local air quality in your area and control of non-regulated installations.
The Scottish Government - develops domestic, and implements European and UK, policies and initiatives to improve air quality and reduce risks to human health.