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Calls for reduction of air pollution to safeguard children’s respiratory health

Charities launch a new national Clean Air for Schools Framework to tackle air pollution in and around schools.


Cutting air pollution by 50 per cent could halve the number of children with disruptive lung conditions that affect their daily lives, new research has found.

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found that the drop in air pollution seen during the coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom caused asthma attacks in children to all but disappear.


A coalition has been formed to lobby the UK government and local authorities to improve air quality at schools, driven by a legally binding target to meet World Health Organisation limits. The group comprises green charity Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation, Living Streets, Modeshift Stars and Mums for Lungs, with the support of Philips, the National Education Union and the NAHT education union.


The Clean Air Schools framework


To support this movement Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation with the endorsement of Philips, have launched The Clean Air Schools framework, a free online tool that helps schools, parents and local authorities design a bespoke clean air action plan from a database of 50 actions.

The tool is particularly important for schools in air pollution hotspots across the UK and Republic of Ireland and will enable them to:

  • Reduce air pollution from their own activities, including the school run;
  • Educate the next generation to help them and their families make cleaner air choices;
  • Become a local leader on air pollution, working with local partners to improve air quality in the local area.

Global Action Plan’s recent Build Back Cleaner Air report found that air pollution can worsen underlying health conditions that make a person more vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19.

The coalition is urging all local authorities to use the framework, highlighting actions taken in the London Borough of Hackney, which is one of the leading community grassroots initiatives proactively tackling air pollution and pioneer of the School Streets traffic restrictions programme. The first four School Streets launched in the borough showed that traffic reduced by an average of 68 per cent, the number of children cycling to school increased by 51 per cent and vehicle emissions outside schools plummeted by 74 per cent as a result of the schemes.


Jon Burke, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm said: “We have one of the biggest School Streets programmes in the country – with nearly all primary schools in Hackney set to have one by September because we know how vital it is to tackle London’s toxic air and get children walking and cycling to school.


"We’re also rolling out over 20 traffic filters across several areas to help rebuild a greener Hackney after the pandemic – securing some of the benefits, like cleaner air, less traffic and higher levels of active travel that lockdown saw. We’d urge other councils to join us in taking the same action and help to protect children from the devastating effects of air pollution.”


“Local authorities must take advantage of free tools such as the Clean Air for Schools Framework, as the analysis by Queen Mary University of London shows, air pollution impacts the daily lives of so many children,” added Chris Large, Co-CEO at Global Action Plan.


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