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Calls to action on broadcasts after report shows link to dementia

ENVIRONMENT campaigners have called for bold action to limit traffic emissions in Scotland after a new report showed links between air pollution and dementia.

The document of nearly 300 pagesreleased on Monday by COMEAP, the UK government’s committee on the medical effects of air pollutants, suggests that the most likely way pollution affects cognitive impairment is through traffic.

The report’s conclusions state succinctly: “Cognitive decline and the incidence of dementia have been almost consistently associated with exposure to air pollution.

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Environmental campaigners said the Scottish government and local authorities were not taking enough action to reduce pollution from transport and other sources.

Earlier this year, research by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland found that Scotland exceeded air quality limits in 2021 after a historic low in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Emissions from transport are Scotland’s largest emitter across all sectors, accounting for around 29% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Scottish Climate Change Plan Update (CCPu), released in December 2020, the Scottish Government pledged to reduce car miles traveled by 20% by 2030 as part of the climate change target. achieve net zero by 2045.

Report says incidents of dementia and cognitive decline are ‘almost consistently’ linked to pollution

The COMEAP report also said: “We are of the opinion that epidemiological evidence suggests an association between exposure to a range of air pollutants and a number of nervous system effects, including accelerated cognitive decline and induction of dementia.”

FoE Scotland transport campaigner Gavin Thomson said: ‘Today’s UK government report is further evidence that air pollution is devastating to human health, and it is truly worrying to see the links with dementia are getting stronger.

“We have long known that traffic exhaust fumes cause asthma and heart problems, and evidence is mounting on the risk that tiny particles – from exhaust, tires and brakes – represent for our cognitive health.

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“It’s especially dangerous for young children, the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions.”

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are set to have Low Emission Zones (LEZs) introduced after plans are approved by ministers and heads of council.

The LEZs set an emissions limit for certain road spaces, restricting access to the most polluting vehicles to improve air quality. In Glasgow, buses are already subject to the measures with enforcement for other vehicles coming in June 2023. For other cities, enforcement will start in 2024.

The National: Some streets in Glasgow city center frequently see Scotland's highest emissionsSome streets in Glasgow city center frequently see the highest emissions in Scotland

Thomson added: “This is the first action we have seen to tackle air pollution, but it is far from enough.

“To improve air quality in our communities and neighborhoods, we need significant investments in public transit so that everyone can access it, while providing more space to walk, ride and do biking.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Improving air quality and therefore the health of our people and the planet is an urgent priority for this Government and we are taking action at all levels to achieve this.

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“Scotland’s Low Emission Zones will deliver real benefits to thousands of people in Scottish cities – they will significantly reduce harmful emissions and help meet air quality targets. Protecting public health and improving air quality through LEZs is an important step forward for the well-being of our communities and the environment.

“Last year we published our updated air quality strategy, setting out how Scotland can achieve the best air quality in Europe.

“To achieve this, we have pledged to reduce car miles traveled by 20% by 2030. We are also providing free bus travel for those under 22, over £500m for priority infrastructure for buses and are investing a record £150m in active travel in 2022-23, leading to an investment of at least £320m a year by 2024-25.

“We have invested over £113m to support the manufacture of new electric buses for Scotland, while investing a further £18m under the BEAR (Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofit) scheme to convert over 1000 buses and coaches with the required emission standards.

COSLA has been contacted for comment.