Researchers at Queen Mary University London have been awarded £300,000 to study the impact that air pollution is having on the mental health of children.
The study will run over a three year period and will explore whether a reduction in traffic and better air quality improves how well children’s brains develop, they will then relate these changes to mental health.
Children from 85 primary schools are taking part in the study, including schools from Luton and London boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster, Camden, Islington and the City of London.
Over the next three years, the children’s cognitive development will be assessed through fun and interactive tasks on computers, and their wellbeing monitored through mental health questionnaires.
The researchers will focus specifically on the impact of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone on children’s brain development.
The research will build on CHILL, an ongoing study of 3,416 primary school children in London and Luton, which is investigating the effects of air pollution on respiratory health and lung development.
Professor Chris Griffiths, study lead, said: ‘London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and UK-wide lockdowns have resulted in unprecedented reductions in traffic pollution and there has never been a better opportunity to address how air pollution affects children’s health.
‘We hope to determine whether improved air quality and specifically, traffic-related air pollution, results in better developmental and mental health outcomes for young people.’
Professor Mark Mon-Williams from the Bradford Institute of Health Research added: ‘Ultimately this research could help to improve educational outcomes, identify children at risk of future mental health problems due to the air quality where they live, and this could enable earlier intervention and allow public services to provide the necessary support and action.’
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