Action to improve air quality around schools demanded

A new coalition has been formed, calling for nationwide action by the government and local authorities to improve air quality at schools.

The coalition comprises Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation, Living Streets, Modeshift Stars and Mums for Lungs, with the support of Philips, the National Education Union, and NAHT.

This follows new research by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), on behalf of Global Action Plan (GAP) and the Philips Foundation, which shows that if outdoor air pollution is halved, there could be up to a 20-50% reduction in the number of children with poor lung function across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The group believes that the most positive improvements to children’s lung resilience is likely to be realised if changes are enacted around the 2,000 schools in the most polluted hotspots across the country.
To support the movement, Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation, with the endorsement of Philips, have launched “The Clean Air Schools Framework”. The framework is a free online tool that gives teachers, headteachers, parents and local authorities a bespoke blueprint of actions for tackling air pollution in and around the school from its database of 50 actions.
The tool will enable schools to reduce air pollution from their own operations, including the school run; educate the next generation to help them and their families make cleaner air choices; and become a local leader on air pollution, working with local partners to improve air quality in the local area.
To mark the launch of the campaign and demonstrate the impact air pollution has on children’s lungs, the coalition is also showcasing new infra-red images of children’s sputum which show the pollutants found in the lungs of children. “Airborne” by artist Sarah Stirk is a multimedia project focusing on air pollution’s impact on the health of children in London. It utilises microscopic images of black carbon i.e. particulate matter, in children’s sputum, data maps showing pollution levels and new infrared images of children. Campaigners will use the new assets as a means of making the invisible, visible to put added pressure on local authorities across the UK and Ireland to act now.
The coalition is especially urging all local authorities to use the framework, highlighting actions taken in the London Borough of Hackney, which is one of the leading community grassroots initiative proactively tackling air pollution and pioneer of School Streets (one of the framework’s key actions). The first four School Streets launched in the borough showed that traffic reduced by an average of 68%, the number of children cycling to school increased by 51% and vehicle emissions outside schools (NOx, PM10 and PM2.5) are down by 74% as a result of the schemes[4].