Air pollution fears are putting parents off walking children to school

Parents are put off walking their child to school because of air pollution fears, according to new research.

The research by the charity Living Streets shows that around two thirds (65%) of parents of 4-11 year olds are concerned about the effect of air pollution on their child’s health, and two fifths (40%) are specifically concerned about the levels of air pollution around their child’s school or on the school run.

The charity also claims concerns about air pollution are significantly higher for parents in London, with 78% concerned about the impact on health and 68% about levels of air pollution around the school.

The research has been released to mark national Walk to School week, which runs until 24 May.

In 2018, Living Streets called for cars to be banned from school gates at pick up and drop off times to allow children to walk the last part of the journey to school, free from traffic.

Since then, more schools and local authorities have successfully taken action to reduce the number of vehicles around the school gates. The charity wants to see this taken nationwide.

As previously reported by Air Quality News, Hackney Council is sending a free ‘School Streets’ toolkit to every council in the country, giving advice on how to replicate its successful initiative which bans vehicles outside schools during pick-up and drop-off times.

‘This research shows that we’re all becoming more aware of the dangers of air pollution on our health. What’s concerning is that parents are put off doing the one thing which could drastically improve the air quality around their child’s school,’ said Living Street’s senior director, Jenni Wiggle.

‘Walking to school is a positive action parents can take to help clean up our air. We know this isn’t an easy option for all parents which is why we’re launching our School Streets toolkit to help make the walk to school an easier choice for everyone.’

Professor Stephen Holgate from the University of Southampton commented:Children are among the most vulnerable members of society to suffer the adverse health effects of air pollution, especially since their lungs are still developing and growing.

‘Exposure to pollution can be far higher sitting in the back of a car or in a bus than outside. Exercise and activity by children, as well as socialising among friends, is greatly improved by active travel with many added benefits to the health and well-being of our next generation.’