Another day of serious air pollution in London and another day when London’s school kids suffer – Stephen Knight

March 14, 2014 9:56 AM

On another day of high air pollution facing London a report has been released by Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Stephen Knight revealing the shocking lack of information and support given to schools located near to the pollution hotspots of London's busiest roads.

Based on a survey of 935 London schools and nurseries that are situated within 150 metres of a road carrying more than 10,000 vehicles per day the survey reveals that just two per cent of schools are even aware of the airTEXT service which provides free daily air pollution forecasts for Greater London. This is despite the Mayor consistently claiming that airTEXT provides an adequate pollution alert service to vulnerable Londoners.

The results from the survey also reveal a further lack of awareness of the information and support services available to children at schools affected by high levels of air pollution that is provided through the Mayor's Cleaner Air 4 Schools education programme.

Key findings of the survey also include:

  • Only 5 per cent of schools were aware of the 'Cleaner Air 4 Schools' education programme in London
  • Just one in 20 head headteachers reported receiving any information about air pollution in the last 12 months from either their local authority, Transport for London or the Greater London Authority.

Such a lack of awareness of the help and support available to schools is in complete contrast to the awareness amongst the schools that their pupils were affected by air pollution, with 80 per cent stating that they were concerned about the health effect of poor air quality on the children attending their school.

The report by Stephen Knight AM, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesperson, puts forward a number of practical recommendations for helping protect children from the harmful effects of air pollution, including the Mayor launching a new air quality awareness campaign across all London's schools and expanding the Cleaner Air 4 Schools education programme. More widely the report states the Mayor needs to launch a publicity campaign to promote awareness of air quality alert systems, such as airTEXT and the London Air Quality Network app, which provide free information and health advice when air pollution levels are forecast to reach moderate or high levels.

The report also calls for the Mayor to consider offering grants to improve the indoor air quality of London's most polluted schools, so ensuring that all classrooms have access to adequate air filtration and ventilation systems.

Setting out why action is so necessary to protect school children from air pollution Stephen Knight said:

"At present only feeble steps are being taken by the Mayor to inform Londoners about air pollution. The Mayor's claim that the airTEXT provides an adequate service to help vulnerable Londoners is totally demolished by the results of this survey.

"We should never forget that children are at great risk from air pollution because of their smaller lung capacity, and their height which means that they are often closer than adults to tail pipe exhaust emissions from vehicles.

"We should of course be tackling air pollution at its source. However, until significant improvements are made in reducing the high levels of air pollution in our capital we need to ensure that every vulnerable person is aware of days when air pollution is at peak levels so that at least some steps can be taken to avoid excessive exposure to air pollution."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. The report can be accessed at:

http://cleanairinlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/CAL-273-London-Schools-Air-Quality-Survey-2014_Published-by-Liberal-Democrats.pdf

  1. 2. The Mayor's claim that the airTEXT provides an adequate service to vulnerable Londoners can be seen in his answer to a Mayoral Question asked by Stephen Knight.

Smog episodes during 2013

Meeting:

Mayor's Question Time

Date

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Reference:

Question 2013/2977

Main question

Stephen Knight

Will you do anything in the remaining months of 2013 to warn Londoners during smog episodes?

The Mayor

Written response from the Mayor
I provide information on air pollution to vulnerable Londoners through airTEXT. I encourage all Londoners to sign up to this service at www.airTEXT.info

http://questions.london.gov.uk/QuestionSearch/searchclient/questions/question_48042

  1. 3. Information on the low number of people who have signed up to the airTEXT service: http://questions.london.gov.uk/QuestionSearch/searchclient/questions/question_41479
  2. 4. Information on the Cleaner Air 4 Schools programme: https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/environment/clearing-londons-air/clean-air-schools

5. The Aphekom Project, a European Commission-fundedstudy into the health impacts of air pollution in 25 major European cities. It found that living within 150m of high-traffic roads (carrying more than 10,000 per day) could be responsible for between 15-30 per cent of new asthma cases in children: http://www.aphekom.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=5532fafa-921f-4ab1-9ed9-c0148f7da36a&groupId=10347 [see p.3 of the report]