Provisional roadside monitoring data for 2011 shows levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in parts of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth are all in breach of European Union targets designed to safeguard human health.
The WWF charity called the findings “totally unacceptable” and urged the Scottish Government to take action to improve air quality “rather than simply seek an extension from Europe to delay meeting air quality targets”.
Around 2.2 million tonnes of nitrogen dioxide are produced every year in the UK, with traffic fumes contributing around half of the emissions. Other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter produced from transport emissions have been linked with health conditions including respiratory problems.
The Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster has calculated pollution from road traffic leads to an average of six months’ lower life expectancy for people living in the UK.
Separate studies have shown the bulk of health-harming pollutants from transport are produced by buses and HGVs. However, action to curb pollution has been slow to take effect.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As announced in the recently published Infrastructure Investment Plan, we have set a vision which ensures our roads are as efficient as possible, complements the work under way to develop low-carbon vehicle technology, promotes active travel choices and encourages a modal shift to public transport.”