A batch of environmentally friendly heating systems for Edinburgh schools has been put on hold by city leaders over fears they could cause schoolchildren breathing problems.

The biomass boilers were set to be included in five secondary and two primary schools being built in the Capital because, unlike traditional gas boilers, no CO2 is released during the heating process. But the order has been stopped amid recent concerns from the science community and council experts about emissions called "particulates" generated by the boilers. Particulates can cause respiratory problems and are especially dangerous for children.

City leaders want to await the outcome of further research into emissions being carried out by the Scottish Government. All the schools were to have back-up gas boilers fitted. It is now likely that two gas boilers will be fitted in the schools in a way that will allow biomass boilers to be fitted at a later date.

Council chiefs today said the suspension of the biomass contract would not delay the project, adding they were "confident" it would not add to the cost, though it will be another two months before this is known for sure.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environment leader, said: "It is frustrating because we are keen to make our contribution to cutting carbon emissions. But it was felt, as this could affect children's health, that we should err on the side of caution."

Edinburgh is currently meeting its EU targets for particulate levels but it is not known by how much they would increase with the introduction of the schools' biomass boilers. The city is facing the prospect of huge EU fines in 2010 if its air is too polluted.


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