Protecting child health from increasing air pollution

Since 2006, Hedges Direct has been the UK’s leading online specialist supplier of hedging and other garden plants to trade and retail customers. Over recent years, evolving environmental issues has seen Hedges Direct become proactive in its aim to both educate and provide effective, sustainable, green solutions. However, it is pollution from traffic fumes and particulate matter, now reaching high and illegal levels on a regular basis across the country, that needs urgent attention.

Currently, one in three children and young adults are growing up exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. The effects can be highly detrimental leading to narrowing of airways, prevalence to lung diseases like asthma and even affected brain development. However, recent studies have indicated that planting hedging or green screening products around areas frequented for outdoor leisure time, can significantly benefit the air quality within that area providing a less polluted, cleaner and safer environment.

To test this theory, in June 2019 in conjunction with Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, Hedges Direct supplied Ivy Screens and other hedging plants for a ground-breaking experiment at Lordship Lane Primary School in London. The school is located in a heavily trafficked area at risk of excessive pollution levels. Over a two week period, the programme makers documented an experiment which saw the school undergo changes externally and internally to attempt to combat the effects of air pollution throughout. Levels of both Nitrogen Dioxide from exhaust fumes and other particulate matter from brakes and tyres produced by all vehicles (including electric), were measured before and after for comparison.

For the external anti-pollution measures, Ivy screens, 1.8m high by 1.2m wide, were installed as a perimeter solution around the school exterior to attempt to absorb sooty particles from traffic pollution and provide cleaner air for the children when spending time outside. A garden was also created in the playground area featuring evergreen hedging plants to supplement this.

Prior to the experiment, the Nitrogen Dioxide levels and other particulates around the school were found to be over fifty per cent higher than recommended levels. At the end of the two week period, levels were measured again with significant results. In the playground and external areas of the school, the planting measures introduced had reduced pollution levels by as much as fifty three per cent - a substantial reduction within a very short timeframe.

These results are also supported by the recent findings of the University of Surrey’s study undertaken by their Global Centre for Clean Air Research. For schools and nurseries in heavily trafficked areas across the UK, of which there are over two thousand that fall into high or illegal levels of pollution areas, this information is crucial, as despite measures being taken by the motor industry to reduce pollutants from vehicles, substantial reductions and new government legislation to enforce change will take time.

With documented evidence confirming that green infrastructure can significantly reduce exposure to harmful toxins and particles from air and traffic pollution, schools in affected areas now have the option to access affordable, interim green solutions, which can provide immediate health benefits until long-term solutions are found.

Hedges Direct supply a comprehensive range of hedging plants and green screening, all of which can help in reducing environmental toxins, particularly at exhaust level. However, whilst any type of hedging will negate some of the effects of air and traffic pollution, it relies on leaf cover to do so. For that reason we recommend evergreen species not deciduous, for leaf cover throughout the year. This will ensure optimal reduction of toxins with regard to improved air quality in the immediate locale. The faster growing evergreens with denser foliage such as Cherry Laurel or Western Red Cedar will provide the maximum benefit in the shortest time period, however any evergreen that can grow to a reasonable height and density will have beneficial and more importantly, long-lasting efficacy.

For urban locations, areas with restricted space or security and privacy considerations, ivy screens and other hedging screens are an instant solution. These evergreen screens consist of a galvanised steel frame and trough from which ivy or other hedging plants are trained and grown over the framework. Being narrow in depth they are space-saving, and are easily moved and installed. Installation can be permanent or in planters for versatility. Once mature with full leaf cover, the evergreen foliage becomes highly effective in reducing toxins and in creating privacy with added security, which is often a plus point for schools. Available in a range of sizes and species, there are options to suit.

For expert advice on anti-pollution measures, planting requirements and bespoke educational pricing, call or email the Hedges Direct trade team today or visit the website.

01257 491373