Lockdown air quality levels could improve lung health of children

New analysis by Queen Mary University of London has found that reducing air pollution around schools could halve the number of children with lung function so poor it affects their everyday lives.

Carried our on behalf of Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation, the research shows that if outdoor air pollution is halved, there could be up to a 20-50 per cent reduction in the number of children with poor lung function across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Given the most positive improvements to children’s lung resilience is likely to be realised if changes are enacted around the 2,000 schools in the most polluted hotspots across the country, a coalition has formed comprised of Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation, Living Streets, Modeshift Stars and Mums for Lungs - all calling for nationwide action by the government and local authorities to improve air quality at schools, driven by a legally binding target to meet World Health Organization limits.  

Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation have launched The Clean Air Schools Framework, an online tool that gives teachers, headteachers, parents and local authorities a bespoke blueprint of actions for tackling air pollution in and around the school from its database of 50 actions.  

The coalition highlights actions taken in the London Borough of Hackney, which is one of the leading community grassroots initiative proactively tackling air pollution and pioneer of School Streets (one of the framework’s key actions).

Chris Large, co-CEO at Global Action Plan, said: “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. But they must act now. The results of our most recent Build Back Cleaner Air report found that clean air practices can help to reduce the spread and exacerbation of Covid-19. Therefore, protecting today’s generation of school children against the toxins carried by air pollution is not only imperative to preventing damage to children’s daily health but also to reducing the impact of this pandemic and future pandemics.”

Geraint Davies, chair of the APPG on Air Pollution, added: “We all want our children safe and before the pandemic knew air pollution can harm children’s lung capacity, hearts and mental health such as reducing concentration levels and increasing anxiety in the classroom. Now we know air pollution increases coronavirus infection rates and makes the symptoms of the disease worse. This means we need to redouble our efforts to reduce air pollution both in and outside schools. Therefore these initiatives to help do this should be welcomed by parents teachers and pupils alike who all deserve every support, as do our local authorities, in making our schools the safest environment possible for our children to learn in and help create a cleaner, greener future for all.”