Primary school students from 60 schools exposed to dangerous pollution says study

Children from almost 60 primary schools in South London are being exposed to harmful pollution from cars, new research shows.

The study has revealed that 59 state primary schools are within 100m of a red route – a network of roads that carries 30% of London’s traffic.

The research also shows that children at primary schools near red routes are exposed to levels of nitrogen oxides that are 25% higher than schools that are further from the busy roads.

Nitrogen oxides form when fossil fuels including gas and diesel are burned – and exposure to these pollutants can cause reduced lung function in children and can trigger asthma attacks.

Claire McDonald, 48, from Herne Hill, is concerned about the effects pollution will have on the health of her two sons, who are 11 and 13 years old.

She said: “I really worry about my kids’ health, in terms of air pollution, because we know how much more it affects children than adults.

“Their walks to school are really polluted because they have to walk along main roads.”

The report shows that the concentration of nitrogen oxides caused by road transport in the air is twice as high between 7am and 9am than it is on average throughout the day.

This is the time in which most children will be walking to school – mostly along busy main roads.

Ms McDonald is anxious about policies to improve air quality, saying: “What I worry is that none of this is going to get carried through and we’re all going to be living in a toxic smog.”

Lambeth, Southwark and Wandswoth have the highest proportion of primary school age children exposed to pollution with 1 in 5 schools in each borough located near a red route.

Across London, almost 50,000 children attend a primary school near a red route.

Campaign groups Mums for Lungs and Choked Up are calling on mayoral candidates to reform the red routes and commit to expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone.

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs, said: “It’s horrifying. I started Mums for Lungs because of the high impact of air pollution on children, especially young children and this research has confirmed that it needs real action.

“We need to see real big vision and change for the Red Routes and all of London, to make sure that everyone’s kids grow up healthy.”

Nyeleti Brauer-Maxaeia, a 17 year-old co-founder of Choked Up, said: “We took action so that lawmakers, decision makers and politicians finally take this climate and air quality crisis seriously, for everyone’s sake.

“The next Mayor of London needs to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone and rethink TFL’s red routes so make sure everyone in the city can breathe clean air.”

The research was carried out by the Environmental Defense Fund Europe in 2019 and published in February 2021.

Pictured top: Air pollution campaigners next to a poster (Left to right: David Nicholson, Anjali Raman-Middleton, Destiny Boka Batesa, Jemima Hartshorn, and Claire McDonald)



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