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Air quality exposure of 250 schoolchildren to be monitored in groundbreaking study

Scientists will monitor the air quality exposure of 250 children in London as they make their way to school and in the classroom.

The groundbreaking study, led by Dr Ben Barratt from the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London, will give state-of-the-art toxic air monitoring backpacks to 250 children from five London primary schools (in the boroughs of Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey and Hammersmith and Fulham), who will wear them for a week to help scientists monitor and better understand the levels of toxic air young Londoners are exposed to during the school day.

Weighing just over 1kg, the sensors fit into lightweight bags and measure particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.

The data from this study will allow King’s scientists to analyse at which point of their journey to school (or which part of their school day) children are exposed to the most pollution. They will also be able to compare the exposure of children who have similar journeys but take different routes and travel modes and then make recommendations of how children can reduce their exposure in future.

Dr Ben Barratt from King’s said: ‘Air pollution has been found to restrict lung growth in children.  Low lung function in childhood can persist into adulthood and is often associated with other health problems including chronic obstructive lung disease in later life.

‘Analysing the impact of air pollution and providing information to our local, national and international communities is a core component of King’s civic responsibility. By monitoring the air that children breathe on the journey to and from school, we will gain a better understanding of which pollutants are the most harmful and where they are coming from, helping us to support effective improvements in public health.’

The announcement was made today at Haimo Primary School in Greenwich by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is funding the study. He said: ‘It remains a shameful fact that London’s toxic air is harming the lung growth and health of our young children, and City Hall is determined to do everything in our power to protect them.’

The new sensors have been developed by Dyson engineers in co-operation with King’s as part of the Mayor’s Breathe London project.

Jessica Le Dinh, category intelligence engineer, Dyson, added: ‘Our engineers have been researching clean air technologies for over two decades. Our team of experts applied their leading knowledge to develop intelligent sensors, compact enough to fit in children’s backpacks.’

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