New research published to mark Clean Air Day shows that primary school children are exposed to 30% more pollution than adults while walking to school.
Clean Air Day (21 June) is organised by the environmental charity Global Action Plan and sets out to address the UK’s ‘significant’ air pollution problem.
The initiative is supported by 180 organisations, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with more than 400 clean air events taking place across the country.
Clean Air Day calls on the public to leave their car at home and, where practical, walk on ‘quiet’ routes to reduce exposure to pollution.
To mark Clean Air Day, Global Action Plan has published new research, which shows primary and nursery school children are being exposed to 30% more pollution compared to adults when walking along busy roads, due to their closer proximity to vehicle exhaust fumes.
The research found that pollution levels from petrol and diesel vehicles were two and a half times lower for children walking along quiet roads.
Children who are driven to school are exposed to double the pollution inside a vehicle compared to those walking on busy streets, according to the study.
Global Action Plan also says pollution levels dropped by 89% during the London Marathon this year, as a result of ‘traffic-free streets’.
Chris Large, a senior partner at Global Action Plan, said: “Our research found that the millions of children in the UK that are walking to school along busy roads are potentially being exposed to 30% more pollution than their parents.
“A simple solution for parents would be to choose quieter back routes to walk or cycle their children to school, away from the traffic, thereby reducing their exposure to unnecessarily high levels of damaging air pollution.”
Michael Gove, environment secretary, said: “This troubling new research is a further demonstration of why we need to take strong action now to improve air quality.
“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 £3.5bn to reduce harmful emissions.
“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.”