Schools & air pollution: What is the impact?
News broke this week that around 3.1 million children in England are going to school in areas where the air is polluted – and around a third of these are in London. A huge 98% of the capital’s schools are based in areas where the levels of particulate matter exceed World Health Organization (WHO) thresholds – the UK’s legal limit for this pollutant is currently two and a half times higher than that specified by the WHO.
Our partner EarthSense also recently worked with Clean Air Day founding charity Global Action Plan to investigate air quality around schools. They used their MappAir API – which we also use as part of our air quality reporting – to pinpoint school locations around the country with high levels of NO2 and particulate matter. Their findings also painted a stark picture for the UK’s pupils, with a high number in London and south-east England exposed to dangerously poor air.
Worryingly, many of the children in London exposed to poor air quality are primary school pupils. Particulate matter pollution has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and even cancer – and for young children, whose lungs are still developing, this presents an even bigger threat.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently met with schoolchildren who suffer from asthma, who reported that their condition was triggered by toxic air in the city. It’s not surprising that high levels of air pollution have been linked to increased asthma attacks – an even more concerning insight is that prolonged exposure may actually cause asthma. Some evidence also suggests that air pollution may lead to significant neurological harm, as tiny particles of pollutant enter the bloodstream or travel directly to the brain through the nose.
Indoor air quality is also at risk for schoolchildren. A 2018 report suggested that poor classroom air quality can be linked with increased absenteeism and impaired exam performance, and as pupils spend around 25 hours per week in a classroom, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve the air they breathe. Poor ventilation can lead to higher levels of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), to which there is no safe level of exposure according to the WHO.
If you’d like to know more about the potential airborne pollutants in your postcode, head to our free, online checkers here, where you can download detailed reports.
Our PerfectAir Ultima is a great choice if you’re worried about the air in your school – effective in large spaces and medical grade, it removes particulate matter, bacteria and viruses with ease. Find out more here.