Children are exposed to 30 per cent more toxic pollution than their parents when walking to and from school every day, a new study had found.
Thermal imaging conducted outside schools showed that nursery and primary students inhale almost a third more harmful car fumes, because they are shorter and therefore in closer proximity to vehicle exhausts.
And it’s even worse if parents drive their kids on the school run – clean air campaigner Global Action Plan said children are exposed to twice as much pollution inside a car as when they’re walking on busy streets.
Dangerous of the school run: Children under the age of 11 are exposed to 30% more toxic car exhaust fumes than their parents while walking to school, a new study has found
The thermal imaging study was conducted across four UK cities – Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and London.
The aim was to discover if an individual’s height had an impact on the level of exposure to harmful particulate emissions from cars, focusing primarily on the differences for adults and kids under the age of 11.
Thermal imaging experts, FLIR, captured shots that show the invisible danger of air pollution around children using infrared cameras.
They use CO2 as a tracer gas to visualise exposure to harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that are emitted from car exhausts.
The campaigning group, which is spearheading Clean Air Day 2018 on Thursday, said parents could help protect their children by simply taking a different walking route to school.
This thermal images captured by infrared cameras show the invisible danger of vehcile exhaust emissions around children
The research found that pollution levels from petrol and diesel vehicles were 2.5 times lower if kids strolled along quieter roads with fewer cars.
However, it warned that the answer to reducing their exposure to exhaust fumes isn’t to take them on the school run in the car.
The study found that 50 per cent of kids are chauffeured to the school gate by their parents, which actually increases their risk on inhaling toxic fumes.
That’s because you’re exposed to double the pollution inside a vehicle compared to when you’re walking down a traffic-heavy street, previous studies have shown.
Driving them is not the answer: Children are exposed to double the amount of vehicle fumes inside a car compared to when they’re walking outside
|% of primary school pupils using this mode of transport||Number of primary school pupils using this mode of transport|
|Walk||Car||Public Transport||Walk||Car||Public Transport|
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the findings of the study we ‘troubling’ that they further demonstrated why the Government needs to act immediately to improve air pollution levels.
This includes measures to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in 2040, as outlined in Mr Gove’s DEFRA Clean Growth Strategy a year ago.
‘Our new Clean Air Strategy sets out how we will be the first major developed economy to reduce air pollution in line with World Health Organisation limits and we have invested £3.5 billion to reduce harmful emissions,’ he said.
‘But Clean Air Day reminds us that by taking simple steps, like leaving the car at home for the school run, we can work together to reduce air pollution and protect our health.’
Research by Professor Jonathan Grigg – a leading UK paediatrician in the effects of air pollution – has found that toxic air is associated with both reduced lung growth in childhood, severity of asthma and pneumonia.
He added: ‘It’s critical that we protect the health of our children’s lungs from air pollution, in order to prevent lasting damage.
‘My research has shown that exposure of young children to higher amounts of air pollution from traffic, has a major impact on their lungs.
‘Although parents can reduce this impact by walking on less polluted roads and taking public transport, the UK government must take further steps to reduce toxic emissions from all roads.’
A leading UK paediatrician in the effects of air pollution said that toxic air is associated with both reduced lung growth in childhood, severity of asthma and pneumonia
UK cities are already taking action against air pollution – and motorists will pay the price
In some major cities, action is already underway.
London introduced the Congestion Zone in 2013 and added the T-Charge last year – both of which are aimed at reducing vehicle emissions in the centre of the capital with a combined £21.50 charge imposed on high polluting vehicles.
The T-Charge will be replaced by the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in the same area from next year and broadened to the whole of inner London between the North and South Circular in 2021 under recently revealed plans.
This will see all motorists – including residents – driving non-qualifying older cars charged £12.50 every day they use their motor.
Ultra-Low Emissions Zones in London and Clean Air Zones in other UK cities will be in place next year in a bid to reduce air pollution
Similar measures – called Clean Air Zones (CAZ) – have also been proposed for Birmingham and Leeds city centres – as well as Derby, Nottingham and Southampton – from 2020 to make our air less toxic.
This could see drivers charged up to £10 a day to drive in these areas.
The Government has also recently introduced a new regulation that will see car makers fined £50,000 for every car found to emit more pollution than official figures state.
For the general population air pollution increases the risk of some serious illnesses, and can make existing conditions, like respiratory disorders, worse.
‘All of the organs in the body seem to be affected in some way by breathing in air pollution,’ according to Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London.
This includes heart and blood vessel problems, cardiovascular disease and furring of the arteries.
It is estimated that as many as 40,000 early deaths each year are caused by the air we breathe when we are out and about.
Clean Air Day, which is supported by Defra and 180 organisations, is calling on UK residents and parents to leave their car at home today (21 June) to address the UK’s significant problem of air pollution, and where practical walk on quiet routes to reduce exposure to pollution.
What is happening around the UK for Clean Air Day 2018 on June 21?
Brent London: Festival at the Civic Centre with stands (Bike It campaign – smoothie making, sustainable travel, FORS and major developers who are building high-rise buildings in the area). Local MPs and councillors will be in attendance to sign a pledge wall.
York City centre: 21 local schools signed up for Walk to School week over Clean Air Day. Cllrs will be talking to parents at the school gate and giving out leaflets and stickers on Clean Air Day. A no-idling campaign will take place at York Station and at numerous local bus stations as well as at the hospital.
Glasgow City Centre: Glasgow City Council is sealing off George Square – and the road outside the City Chambers. UKHACC are holding a Clean Air Day health conference in the square. Festival includes demonstrations of electric bicycles, electric vehicles (EVs), cycling stands and stalls.
Southampton City Centre: Clean Air Day Festival with music, activities, bike doctors, electric bikes, EVs, cargo bikes, pledges. Health experts from the local university will be showcasing air quality/pollution monitoring equipment. Case study option includes: St Johns primary school, which is campaigning to permanently close the road at peak times.
Transport for Greater Manchester: Various broadcast opportunities exist with: Lung dome (health checks), electric bike taster sessions, rolling road bike speed challenge, electric cars on display – Exchange Square, Manchester city centre. Lung checks and health advice – Manchester Royal Infirmary and Wythenshawe Hospital. Free tram travel across the Metrolink network before 7am and after 7pm on Clean Air Day.
Edinburgh City Council: The Mound will be closed for the morning of Clean Air Day, with temporary landscaping and park benches for people to enjoy sitting on in place of cars. Traffic will also be barred from the eastern section of George Street for most of Thursday and up until noon on Friday, with a whole host of activities including yoga, cycling, dance and walking activities to promote clean air and raise awareness of the city’s Low Emission Zone. Sciennes Primary School will also be involved for case studies – students will be walking to school through meadows carrying air quality placards on 21 June.
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