Scientist voices pollution fears over new early years centre at Bearsden

A local scientist has slammed plans for a new early years centre in Bearsden as “utter folly” and “totally irresponsible” due to the health risk of air pollution in the area.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 11:31 am
25-11-2014 Bearsden, Brookwood Library, Councillor Duncan Cumming, against closure. Picture Paul McSherry.

On Tuesday, September 24, members of East Dunbartonshire Council approved proposals to demolish the former Brookwood Library and develop an early years education centre, approximately 10 metres from Drymen Road.

However, local resident and Professor Emeritus of chemistry at the University of Strathclyde Michael Hitchman has echoed warnings, which were highlighted by UNICEF in 2018.

Professor Hitchman adds: “For some years, Air Quality in Scotland (AQS) has been collecting air pollutant data at Bearsden Cross.

“In particular, the concentrations of two of the major pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter have been monitored.

“The matter particles have a size of 10 micrometres and 2.5 micrometres by comparison, the width of a single human hair is typically about 100 micrometres. Of those pollutants the most insidious are PM2.5s. 

“It has been known for some time that child lung capacity declines on exposure to PM2.5s.

“Respiratory disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often originate early in life. Pre-natal and early-life environmental exposures have a persistent impact on respiratory health.

“Acting during a critical phase of lung development, these factors can change a child’s lung structure and metabolism, and can induce maladaptive responses to harmful agents, which will affect the whole lifespan. 

“A recent study has unequivocally confirmed the stunted growth of children’s lungs by the release of micro-plastics from car tyres and brake dust. The WHO  (World Health Organisation) has set the recommended limit for exposure to PM2.5s as ten millionths of a gramme in one cubic metre of air. The AQS monitoring station at Bearsden Cross recorded an average value for PM2.5 of eight milionths of a gramme per cubic metre of air in the first half of this year. 

“East Dunbartonshire Council claims that because the measured levels of particulates at the Cross are below the set target of 10 millionths of a gramme per cubic metre of air there is no cause for concern. It is also claimed that the ELC (Early Learning Centre) site being away from the Cross (about 350 metres) the PM2.5 levels will be lower.

“That is true, but a British Lung Foundation link shows that the average PM2.5 level at the Terrace Medical Practice on the corner of Manse Road is six millionths of a gramme per cubic metre of air. However, both those measured levels give real cause for concern since the UNICEF report pointed out that, in reality, PM2.5s are able to penetrate deep into the lungs and there is no safe level for humans to breathe in; the latest EDC report of June 2018 even concurs with that! 

“Furthermore, the levels will be particularly dangerous for children up to the age of six since they breathe in three times as much air as an adult, relative to their weight. A child attending the ELC will be getting the equivalent of at least 18 millionths of a gramme per cubic metre of air of PM2.5s! 

“As has been made very clear, the council has been warned of the potential dangers and serious implications for children’s health in building an ELC at the proposed site.

“Yet in spite of that and of their own commitment in the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan, which states that a main outcome is that ‘Our children and young people are safe, healthy, and ready to learn’, they have chosen to go ahead with the planned development. 

“Children who grow up with chronic and acute respiratory problems as a result of attending the ELC would rightly hold the council responsible for their debilitating conditions. 

“Could councillors live with such disastrous outcomes on their consciences? 

“They should stop immediately the development of the ELC, and think again before it is too late. 

“Parents, grandparents, family members and concerned residents reading this article should urge them to do so by contacting them and writing directly to the council.

“The children of Bearsden should not be made to take breaths of toxic air. ”

Thomas Glen, East Dunbartonshire Council’s depute chief executive for Place, Neighbourhood and Corporate Assets, said: “During consideration of this planning application, consultation was carried out with internal and external consultees, including those with responsibility for air quality monitoring and management on and around the site.

“Regular air quality monitoring is carried out in this area and current data shows that the required levels for air quality in the vicinity of the site, are not being exceeded.

“The council takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously with active plans in place to reduce emissions and improve air quality.”