A BAN on domestic wood burning is on the cards after it emerged more than one in 29 deaths in Scotland's large towns and cities are now linked to long term exposure to air pollution.

The Scottish Government confirmed that it would consider possible restrictions on the use of domestic wood burning stoves - after the Centre for Cities suggested an outright ban.

The new estimates in the Centre for Cities’ annual study of the UK’s major urban areas shows people in UK towns and cities are 25 times more likely to die from long-term exposure to pollution than in a car crash.

But the charity which works with Whitehall to develop urban policies has reveals a north-south divide for pollution levels, with higher levels of deadly dust, ash and soot, called Particulate Matter (PM2.5), in southern areas.  The tiny particles, can be inhaled deep into the lungs where they irritate the lining and enter the bloodstream.

Air pollution is rated as one of the most serious threats to public health in the UK with only cancer, obesity and heart disease eclipsing it.

READ MORE: Why the craze for wood burning stoves in the home is polluting our air

The proportion of deaths related to exposure to PM2.5 is highest in London and south-eastern towns including Luton and Slough because of their proximity to the capital and pollution blowing over the channel.


Meanwhile, cities in Scotland and northern England have the lowest proportion of PM2.5-related deaths.

In total, an estimated 628 people aged over 25 were killed by PM2.5-related deaths in Scottish cities in the year studied, 2017.

The data shows that the proportion of air pollution-related deaths in Scotland is highest in Edinburgh, where there were 157 deaths - or 3.7% of the adult deaths in the capital.

Glasgow had seen the most over 25s deaths overall in Scotland – 354 in the year.

And Aberdeen has the smallest proportion of deaths related to PM2.5 Scotland. There, PM2.5 caused 63 deaths – or 3.0% of all adult deaths in the city.

The Centre for Cities said the proportion of deaths in Scottish cities linked to PM2.5 toxins is lower than the rest of the UK due to their distance from London – by far the biggest emitter of PM2.5 in the UK – and from continental Europe, as some emissions are blown over the English Channel.

READ MORE: Will the new clean air strategy mean I can’t use my log-burning stove?

But the group says action can still be taken in Scotland to reduce air pollution-related deaths.

It said transport is a significant, but not sole contributor to air pollution while burning fuels is also a major cause.

The report says half of deadly PM2.5 toxins generated in cities and large towns come from sources such as wood burning stoves and coal fires.

And it called for a ban of the use of wood burning stoves and coal fires in areas where air pollution exceeds guidelines - in coordination with the Scottish Government.


A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We launched the independent review of air quality strategy, 'Cleaner Air for Scotland - The Road to a Healthier Future', in November 2018. We published conclusions and recommendations of the review in August 2019 and sought comment on these in the autumn.

"We will now consider in detail the recommendations and wider views and will consult on a revised strategy this year. The issue of domestic wood burning stoves is being considered as part of that review.”

Half of local authority leaders polled by Centre for Cities highlighted the environment as a major concern, but Centre for Cities said progress has been slow and more must be done to prevent more avoidable deaths from air pollution.

It suggested the introduction of Ultra Low Emission Zones to charge car and van drivers in city centres.

It also said the Scottish Government should do more to help local politicians in Scotland act by providing financial incentives for cities to improve air quality through the establishment of an Environmental Impact Bond.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said “More than half of people in the UK live in cities and large towns. And while they offer people good employment and lifestyle opportunities Cities Outlook 2020 shows that they also having a damaging effect on their health, with air pollution killing thousands of people living in cities every year.

“Politicians often talk tough on addressing air pollution but we need to see more action. People in Scotland should be at the centre of the fight against its toxic air and councils should take the steps needed, including charging people to drive in city centres and banning wood burning stoves.

“To help the Government needs to provide the Scotland councils with extra money and introduce stricter guidelines. Failure to act now will lead to more deaths in Scotland.”


The report pointed out that local authorities in Scotland following strict World Health Organisation guidelines for PM2.5 after the Scottish Parliament published its Clean Air Strategy in 2015, which is not the case elsewhere in the UK. The WHO guidelines state the average annual level for these pollutants should be 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We are improving air quality across the country and have seen significant reductions in pollution emissions over recent decades through tighter industrial regulation, improved fuel quality, cleaner vehicles and an increased focus on sustainable transport.

“Compared to the rest of the UK and other parts of Europe, Scotland enjoys a high level of air quality and we have set more stringent air quality targets. Low Emission Zones (LEZs) will help further improve air quality in towns and cities by preventing access by the dirtiest vehicles. We made more than £18 million available in 2019-20 to support local authorities and fleet operators with the financial costs of establishing and preparing for LEZs. We will continue to provide support in order to protect public health.

“We are also working to tackle poorer air quality in some parts of Scotland and have made £2.5 million of funding available annually to local authorities in order to support action plan development and implementation."

More than 60% of roads nationwide exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for toxic levels of air pollution.

British Lung Foundation policy and public affairs officer Zak Bond, said the charity is calling on the Government to adopt the air pollution limits the WHO has advised countries to aim for by 2030, as Scotland has.

Mr Bond said: "Whilst it's shocking that more than one in 19 deaths in UK towns and cities can be linked to air pollution, it doesn't tell the full story in terms of the millions of people whose lives are affected on a daily basis.

"Breathing in toxic air is bad for everyone and can lead to a wide range of health conditions including lung disease, stroke and cancer.

"It is particularly dangerous for the 12 million people in the UK living with lung conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, as it can make their symptoms flare up and lead to hospitalisation.

"In children, it can cause irreversible damage to their developing lungs."

In response to their demands, the Department for Environment issued a statement saying the government is "stepping up the pace and taking urgent action" to improve air quality.