Why Pollution Matters?
At present the Council seems to wish to portray the Tram project as something that is happily now in the past -- 'over' - a done deal.
As ever they just want to 'Move on' and 'Put it all behind us'!
But we believe that just 'moving on' is not 'putting it all behind us' but heading full speed ahead into a worse disaster than ever.
By keeping on the same track in this we will be building more and more 'pollution' across the city, and by doing this we will be creating illnesses that themselves could lead to actions against the council precisely for not investigating the pollution effects on the population.
Of course Pollution is important because of the health effects it creates; but it is also important within our case because, like noise it can be measured very precisely and there are guidelines and limits set in the EU, and even lower aspirational targets in place in Scotland, in view of the growing understanding of it's effects It also is a very strong indicator of the other effects from congested traffic such as danger, difficulty in crossing roads, degredation to the street environment, dust and dirt etc.
But complaining about 'more cars' and more lorries, HGVs, LGVs, Vans, buses and so forth isn't exact enough as their are no real constraints on 'how many vehicles should go down a road'----something commented upon by David Anderson, a senior CEC executive, in a letter to a resident very recently. But pollution can can be measured precisely and is being measured, whereas noise, by and large isn't .
And all roads are not the same--- moving pollution from commerical streets where no-one spends much time to streets where people live, without either telling anyone or planning to for the effects cannot be seen as anything other than cynical.
To do this simply to showcase the tram project only deepends the perception of cynicism of a problem beingswept under the carpet as being too tough to deal with.
Traffic created pollution makes itself known in two ways.
You may have seen the government safety videos shown on TV where a parent is hustling their child away from a car exhaust in which the driver is sitting with the engine running .This is because it is heavier than air...and the concentrations are far denser at the height of a child than an adult.
In children it is believed to aggravate, possibly even create, chronic asthma and other chronic respiratory ailments, this isn't due to lead in the fuel, that was sorted out years ago of course, but to other pollutants, not all delivered by the 'exhaust pipe' but also coming from the particles abraded from clutches, brakes, tyres etc as traffic stops and starts
In older people, or indeed younger people as well,, however it kills by means of strokes or heart attacks, caused because of the pollutant effect in thickening the blood. Very recently media reporting of scientific research pointed out people with diagnosed cardiac conditions should not stand near busy junctions at peak traffic times for too long!
This becomes difficult when the busy junction is your own street and the peak hours are almost all the time, every day
Pollution matters --- and it serves to act as a 'highlighter pen' for the problem, along with noise also subject to statutory limits, in a way just complaining about 'more traffic' does not.
We find that most people continue to believe that when running the tram will share roadspace in the way we see in many foreign cities, and early tram videos and presentations did show this, but it just isn't true in Edinburgh.
The issue of traffic created pollution is similar to the issue of smoking in the early 1960's,in being recognised by many scientists but still denied by many in positions of power, and not widely understood by the public.
Rrecently published figures show 3,000 deaths every year in London are because of it's effects, while a further 4,500 people are admitted to hospital with respiratory problems-- not 'made ill' but admitted to hospital! These are often the most vulnerable, the very youngest babies and children and the oldest in our society. More recently people with known cardiac conditions were warned to avoid busy junctions at peak periods following more research findings.
But how can that be done when the busy junctions are in the streets where people live and the peak periods last all day? How can these people protect themselves when they cannot stay 'away' because the traffic is being taken from the former 'busy junctions' in the City Centre and pushed down the streets where they live - by their own Council?
The real problem right now is not that there is any doubt that traffic created pollution is a serious issue, nor that traffic created noise is also a serious health problem, but that for whatever reason the Council continue to remain in a state of denial about it.
It is not good enough to blame 'the traffic', and imply it will always 'be bad', when it is the flawed concept of the tram that is responsible for making the traffic (and that includes buses, HGVs, LGVs, vans and lorries, not only private cars) go down the streets where families live, creating this series of interconnected problems.
This is even worse when the project now being carried forward is so utterly changed in every respect from the original one in the early part of the cetury---except in respect of this ability to create illness or even death through it's transfer of pollution from the old busy junctions to the new busy junctions, which now happen to be at the ends of residential streets.
- In Edinburgh pollution is being moved from streeets where the people visit for relatively short periods, as tourists, shoppers or for nights out
- In Edinburgh this pollution in moved into streets where people live in their homes, so they are exposed to the pollutants for far longer periods-- hours and hours every day, against a few hours every few weeks or so--for shoppers---and a few hours once in a lifetime for toursists.
- Pollution itself is increased--a vehicle doing 30mph down a long straight, historical thorough fare creates some pollution covering 200 yards--but this is massivly increased when it can only go at 10mph or so through residential streets, stopping and starting continuously. The most dangerous pollutants do not just come from exhaust gases but the abrasion of minute particles from brakes, clutches, tyres and engine parts as vehicles repeatedly brake and accelerate...as in congested traffic
- Pollution is concentrated, as the pollutants are heavier than air they tend to settle lower, the government's recent adverts have shown parents ushering children away from idling cars as the pollution is as much as twice the level at their 3 to 4 feet height as it is at an adult's height..
- In Edinburgh and similar large cities and towns especially with Georgian and Victorian architecture the added problem is that of basement dwellings, because the pollutants are heavier than air they may pool into basement wells where they do not disperse as easily