Children exposed to five times more air pollution on school run

New report finds that London children travelling to primary schools across the capital are five times more exposed to air pollution than at any other time of the day.

Air quality250 pupils took part in the study into air quality, funded by the Mayor of London, by carrying special backpacks with state-of-the-art Dyson air quality sensors on their journey to and from school.

The pupils were from primary schools in Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea. They each carried specialist backpacks which measured fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, for a week.

The data from these backpacks revealed that:

  • Pupils were exposed to on average five-times-higher concentrations of harmful NO2 pollution on the school run than when they were at school
  • 5­ concentrations were also higher during the journey to school
  • For both NO2 and PM2.5 children who walked to school by backstreets were exposed to the lowest levels of pollution
  • The highest concentrations were recorded by children walking along main roads
  • Pollution levels were higher in cars and buses than on back streets.

Each participating school has received an ‘air quality audit’ to help them reduce pupils’ exposure to pollution in and around schools and a grant of £10,000 to help them deliver some measures immediately. Further action is then expected to be delivered in partnership with relevant local authorities.

Dr Ben Barratt, who co-authored the report available on the Mayor of London website, said:

We are delighted to see that, as a result of taking part in the study, so many children and parents found cleaner, healthier ways to travel to and from school.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated:

Air pollution is a public health crisis and it is shocking that pupils are exposed to such high levels of harmful air. (We have) provided air quality audits and funding at each school to help deliver urgent pollution reduction measures.

Kate Barnes, Head teacher at Haimo Primary School in Eltham, which took part in the study said:

Since taking part in the Breathe London Wearable Study our children and families have been more conscious than ever about how we travel to school and it is still a talking point... They are aware of the effect their work will have on their environment and are rightly proud of the positive impact they are having for themselves, the wider community and future generations.

The full article is available to read on the King’s College London website.

The King’s Health Partners Allergy, Respiratory, Critical Care, Anaesthetics and Pain Clinical Academic Group have world class specialist clinics in interstitial lung disease, sleep, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.