With recent findings from FOI requests highlighting that Councils are failing to measure the majority of schools in Britain for air quality, concerns linking air pollution and young people’s health have been heightened.
DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) dictate air quality standards for the UK, however, local authorities are not duty-bound to monitor air quality against these guidelines in schools; acting only when they feel necessary. In fact, the Guardian reported yesterday that in a study done by the British Lung Foundation, out of 433 local councils, only 140 of them monitored schools with pollution meters placed within 10 meters of the school.
At such early ages, children’s development, including their physical and mental well being has been linked to air pollution. Earlier this year, new research from BMJ Open suggested that even at low levels, air pollution can be linked to an increase in children’s mental health problems. What’s more, with under-developed lungs, children are more at risk to air pollution than adults, and there has been increasing evidence from various studies linking traffic pollution with increases in the occurrence of asthma in children.
According to EU law, the UK is still contravening air quality standards in some parts of the UK, with many people living within highly polluted areas. REC’s Principle Air Quality Consultant, Conal Kearney, said, ‘Children, like the elderly, are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution. Therefore schools should be always considered in air quality assessments. However, the absence of monitoring at a specific school does not necessarily indicate a lack of consideration of the site. A combination of air quality monitoring or modelling techniques can be used to predict air pollution levels at schools and other sensitive locations; the results of which are reported to the public. Any new developments, including schools, should be assessed to confirm that future air pollution exposure is acceptable’.