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‘3.1m kids in England going to schools in areas with toxic air’

On average, PM2.5 concentrations were a third (33 per cent) higher at schools in London than in the rest of England…reports Asian Lite News.

Children in London are four times more likely to go to school in areas with high levels pollution levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits, than children in the rest of England, reveals New City Hall analysis.

According to the new analysis, the poor air quality stunts the growth of children’s lungs and worsens chronic illnesses, such as asthma, lung and heart disease. It has found 3.1m English children are attending schools in areas exceeding WHO limits for PM2.5.

The new analysis of the national Government data for annual average PM2.5 in 2019 also shows that, before the pandemic, more than 1.2 million children in London attended schools in areas that exceeded WHO limits for PM2.5 – more than 700,000 of them are of primary school age

Also, 98 per cent of state primary and secondary schools in London were in areas that exceeded WHO limits, compared with 24 per cent outside of London.

On average, PM2.5 concentrations were a third (33 per cent) higher at schools in London than in the rest of England.

This is having a real impact on children’s health. A landmark study of the impact of London’s air pollution found children growing up in polluted parts of the capital showed significantly smaller lung volume, with a loss of approximately five per cent in lung capacity – equivalent to two large eggs – compared to their peers in the rest of England.

Research shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be deprived Londoners and from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. The ULEZ expansion in combination with the Mayor’s other air quality policies will help reduce the exposure gap between the most and least deprived areas by 71 per cent by 2030.

 The difference in exposure between areas with the highest and lowest proportion of BAME residents will decrease by up to 85 per cent. There is also emerging evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to the most severe impacts of COVID.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “For too long it has been accepted that children growing up in London will breathe more polluted air than their friends and family outside this great city. But I don’t accept this. I’m doing everything in my power to stop young Londoners breathing air so filthy that it damages their lungs and causes thousands of premature deaths every year. This is why I’m expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone later this year.

“I want to make sure all of London meets the World Health Organization limits for particulate matter. But I can’t do it alone and I want to work with Government to achieve this goal. That’s why I’m asking for the new Environment Bill to include legally binding WHO recommended limits to be achieved by 2030. We can’t sleep walk from the health crisis of COVID back into complacency over the major impact of toxic air on everyone’s health.”

 Harriet Edwards, Senior Policy and Projects Manager, Air Quality, at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: Each year, the capital’s poor air quality contributes to around 1,000 emergency hospital admissions for children with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Children should feel safe when they are at school, but instead they are being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution which could be damaging their lungs and future prospects. For the tens of thousands of children living with existing lung conditions, breathing dirty air could trigger a life-threatening asthma attack or exacerbation. That’s why we welcome the expanded ULEZ to help make more of London’s schools safer and more inclusive for children with all types of lung disease.”

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