More than a quarter of British schools, nurseries and colleges are in areas with ‘dangerously high’ levels of air pollution, according to research commissioned by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.
Researchers from Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants compared the location of schools, nurseries and colleges with annual particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in those areas in 2019 – before lockdown had an impact on local air pollution.
The analysis found that 8,549 educational institutions in England, Wales and Scotland – 27% of the total – are in areas where PM2.5 exceeds the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines
Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation said they want to see the government commit to safer new legal limits for PM2.5 in line with WHO guidelines.
Harriet Edwards, senior policy and project manager for air quality at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘It’s alarming that thousands of children are going into schools where dangerously high air pollution levels could be putting their health and futures at risk.
‘There are no safe levels for air pollution, we need to get levels as low as possible and it’s vital the Government commits to ambitious new targets in line with the best available science from the WHO.
‘Covid-19 has reinforced more than ever the importance of healthy lungs and it’s our responsibility to ensure the next generation has clean air to breathe.’
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘With 1.1 million children (1 in 11) in the UK receiving treatment for asthma, it is high time we began prioritising the lung health of our young people.2
‘There is strong evidence that air pollution can stunt the growth of children’s lungs and emerging evidence that it is linked to the development of asthma in children.
‘Exposure to air pollution is dangerous for everyone but for people with lung conditions, it can cause a flare-up of their symptoms.3 Over half of people with asthma tell us poor air quality makes their condition worse, which puts them at higher risk of an asthma attack.’
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