One in five of London’s state schools are located in areas with poor air quality, a report linking social deprivation and air quality has suggested this week.
London’s Polluted Schools: the Social Context, which was compiled by air quality consultancy Aether and commissioned by the FIA Foundation, suggests that children in more deprived areas of London attend schools most affected by poor air quality, yet are likely to contribute least to traffic pollution.
The report outlines the combination of health factors facing children in the most polluted London schools, including social deprivation, obesity and lower levels of activity.
In response to the findings of the report, FIA Foundation has called for an ‘integrated’ approach to policy development, acting on air quality alongside the broader social issues which impact children’s wellbeing.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation, says: “There is growing evidence that children from some of London’s most socially-deprived areas are not only affected by unacceptable levels of air pollution around their schools, but they also face compounding health risks.
“In funding this research and raising awareness of these issues in London, we hope to stimulate action here and in other cities, to help tackle air pollution for the 2 billion children who live in areas where outdoor pollution exceeds international limits. Every child has the right to a safe and healthy journey to school.”
Other findings outlined in the report suggest that over 85% of the schools which are most affected by poor air quality have pupils from catchments which are more deprived than the London average.
Alongside this, children at the schools with poorest air quality were found to be walking to school more than the London average.
The report also highlights the positive benefits of physical activity, such as walking and cycling to school; raises questions over the barriers to the long-term take-up of cycling; and calls for the use of Mayor of London’s school air quality audits to ensure that lower pollution routes to school are identified where possible.
Mr Billingsley added: “This report strengthens the argument for serious, coordinated, action across all agencies and authorities to tackle vehicle emissions at source, and to adopt a holistic approach to urban development and transport that emphasises healthy outcomes.”
The impact of air pollution on school children has been in greater focus in recent weeks, with the campaign group ClientEarth having launched its Poisoned Playgrounds campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the air quality around schools (see airqualitynews.com story).
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also announced plans to fund air quality audits at 50 primary schools in the capital in some of the worst polluted areas (see airqualitynews.com story).
London’s Polluted Schools: the Social Context is published ahead of a global conference taking place on International Walk to School Day on 4 October in London.
Report: London’s Polluted Schools