The charity Global Action Plan has called on the UK government to do more to tackle unsafe levels of air pollution around schools and nurseries. Following Clean Air Day on 17 June, the charity has renewed its calls for a safer environment for children to learn and play, where they are protected from toxic air pollutants.
New research has discovered that 27% of UK schools, including nurseries, are in areas above World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits, Nursery World reports. This amounts to almost 8,000 schools and nurseries, and affects an estimated 139,000 nursery age children, mostly in England.
Concentrations of PM2.5 (Particulate Matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less) outside educational sites were measured, and 7,852 were above the threshold for key air pollutants in guidance issued by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines. Larissa Lockwood, director of Clean Air at Global Action Plan, called the finding ‘extremely alarming.’
PM2.5 is formed of tiny particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, and can spread around the body, potentially causing conditions such as heart and lung disease. Toxic air pollution can even affect unborn babies in the womb, and trigger asthma, damage lung development, and impact on a child’s ability to learn.
Lockwood added: ‘Air pollution is not a fact of life. If we all do our bit, it can be solved with collaborative action and education. We have seen the power of Clean Air Day to unite a movement, to bring confidence to talk about the importance of tackling air pollution even in trying times, and to push for change, but it can’t stop there.’
A free online tool has been launched to help schools and nurseries reduce pollution around their own sites, by reducing the traffic flow, improving ventilation, and encouraging low pollution habits in the next generation.
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