Clean Air Day: over a quarter of UK schools above WHO air pollution limits

New data released today on Clean Air Day shows that over a quarter of UK schools are located in areas which are above WHO air pollution limits

Global Action Plan have released new data that shows over a quarter (27%) of UK schools are located in areas which are above World Health Organization (WHO) air pollution limits.

The findings have been released today on Clean Air Day, a campaign organised by the charity.

The data collected by EarthSense of 28,965 UK schools is based on data input from a 2019 annual average data set; 7,852 schools were found to be above the limits.

The data measures concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less). PM2.5 is formed of tiny particles that can cross from the lungs into the blood and then move around the body causing conditions such as heart and lung disease.

Global Action Plan said children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. Starting in the womb, toxic air can harm children’s health, causing or triggering asthma, damaging lung development, and as revealed on Clean Air Day 2020, it can even affect their ability to learn.

If we all do our bit, it can be solved with collaborative action and education – Larissa Lockwood, Global Action Plan

In response to this, Global Action Plan created the Clean Air for Schools Framework, a free online tool that gives headteachers, teachers, parents and local authorities a blueprint of actions for tackling air pollution in and around schools.

The charity have also called for schools to take actions such as hosting assemblies to raise awareness on air pollution; encouraging parents, carers and teachers to leave the car at home; and telling their local council what they would like to see happening to tackle air pollution.

Larissa Lockwood, director of Clean Air at Global Action Plan, said: “The fact that 27% of UK schools are above WHO air pollution limits is extremely alarming. Air pollution is not a fact of life. If we all do our bit, it can be solved with collaborative action and education.”

Sarah Hannafin, policy advisor at the National Association for Head Teachers, said: “The impact of the pandemic on children has been huge; we need to do everything we can to make sure we safeguard their futures. One vital way of doing that is to ensure they return to a safe, clean and healthy environment where they can learn, play and thrive.”

According to the data, the biggest air pollution hotspots include the South East, where there are 2,181 schools over the air pollution limit, with 292 in Portsmouth and 209 in Southampton.

In London there are 1,973 schools over the limit, with 158 in Lambeth and Southwark, 146 in Romford and 129 in Croydon. The North East has the lowest number of schools over the limit with just five.

Global Action Plan will be working with schools in hotspots to inform and support them.

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