Safer streets: MSP says 20mph limit will save hearts and lungs

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell today said statistics showing the prevalence of heart and lung disease in different parts of Scotland underline the need to cut traffic pollution by reducing the urban speed limit from 30 to 20 mph.

Figures from the British Heart Foundation show that urban areas of Scotland such as Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Dundee are among the worst for premature deaths from heart disease.

Figures from the British Lung Foundation show that people living in 23 of Scotland's 32 council areas are more likely to die from lung disease than the average across Great Britain. Those living in Glasgow are most at risk - almost twice as likely to die.

20mph is shown to cut toxic diesel vehicle emissions.

Mark Ruskell MSP intends to bring forward a Member's Bill at Holyrood so that the default speed limit in residential areas would be 20 mph, and local councils would have to consult with residents if they wanted to raise the limit to 30 mph.

Mr Ruskell has already shown that speed limits are not being routinely applied, with some councils such as Edinburgh rolling out permanent 20 mph streets, while others such as Falkirk have none and have no plans to create any. This "postcode lottery" of road safety puts pedestrians and cyclists, especially children and the elderly, at risk of injury and death.

Mark said:

"Reducing speed in built up areas has been shown to cut the pollution from diesel vehicles that can trigger heart attacks and gives many people difficulty breathing. Air pollution is causing poor health and early deaths.

"A 20mph limit is a low cost measure that not only reduces exhaust pollution but also makes streets more attractive for walking and cycling. It’s not a silver bullet but a 20mph limit is a vital first step in making our communities safer and healthier.

"With health as well as safety experts backing the move from 30 to 20 mph, I look forward to bringing forward my Bill so our communities can have safer, healthier streets."

James Cant, Director at British Heart Foundation Scotland, said:

"Research funded by the British Heart Foundation at the University of Edinburgh has shown that air pollution can have a major impact for those living with cardiovascular disease, making existing heart conditions worse and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. We support any efforts to reduce levels of air pollution as this can help improve quality of life for the 670,000 people across Scotland living with cardiovascular disease."

Irene Johnstone, Head of BLF Scotland, said:

“Air pollution is a health risk for everyone, but particularly impacts on children and those who are already unwell with lung disease. Scotland already has some of the highest rates of lung disease in the UK, particularly in our cities and urban areas. Exposing Scotland’s children to polluted air will only make this worse.

"Research shows that as well as affecting children with conditions such as asthma, everyday exposure to pollution has even been found to contribute to breathing problems in healthy children. And for people with lung conditions, the growing body of evidence on air quality supports what they have been telling us for years – that their symptoms are made worse on polluted days and sometimes even force them into hospital.

"It’s not just about deaths, it’s impacting on people’s quality of life and increasing the burden on our health services. That’s why the BLF is committed to supporting initiatives that can improve Scotland’s air quality."



BHF figures (Cardiovascular Disease - UK National, Regional & Local Statistics & Rankings):


BLF figures:

Relative risk of death from any lung disease, by local authority district, 2008–12. Those LAs with a figure greater than 1 have a greater relative risk of death from lung disease than the GB average.

1.            Eilean Siar: 1.013

2.            Shetlands: 0.9298

3.            Orkney Islands: 0.933

4.            Highland: 0.9526

5.            Argyll & Bute: 0.9607

6.            Moray: 1.026

7.            Aberdeenshire: 0.9092

8.            Aberdeen City: 1.197

9.            Perth & Kinross: 0.9002

10.          Stirling: 0.9953

11.          Angus: 0.9872

12.          Dundee City: 1.342

13.          Fife: 1.233

14.          Clackmannanshire: 1.283

15.          Falkirk: 1.284

16.          East Dumbartonshire: 1.008

17.          West Dumbartonshire: 1.606

18.          Inverclyde: 1.404

19.          Renfrewshire: 1.367

20.          North Ayrshire: 1.351

21.          South Ayrshire: 1.205

22.          East Ayrshire: 1.449

23.          East Renfrewshire: 1.024

24.          Glasgow City: 1.892 (The greatest risk in the whole of GB eg. 89% more likely to die from lung disease than GB average.)

25.          North Lanarkshire: 1.573

26.          South Lanarkshire: 1.387

27.          West Lothian: 1.327

28.          Edinburgh, City of: 1.05

29.          Midlothian: 1.255

30.          East Lothian: 1.023

31.          Scottish Borders: 0.9735

32.          Dumfries & Galloway: 1.05


20mph limits offer a toxic diesel fume reduction equivalent to taking half of all petrol cars away (Twenty's Plenty):