New guidance to help schools tackle air pollution
World-leading air pollution experts from the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), in consultation with a diverse range of collaborators (parents, schools, academics, councillors, environmental groups, professional bodies, and others) have published guidance on tangible measures that can be taken to improve the air children breathe in and around schools.
Children who are exposed to air pollution are more likely to suffer from short and long-term health conditions including bronchitis, asthma, and stunted lung development. Air pollution has also been linked with poor concentration and related learning and behavioural issues.
The recently published booklet, Mitigating Exposure to Traffic Pollution in and around Schools, outlines 10 general recommendations that schools and communities can follow to improve the quality of air for children across the country.
Some of these measures include: encouraging schools to restrict the number of windows and doors open in classrooms that face drop-off/pick up zones; planting green barriers – such as hedges – to minimise daily exposure to harmful particles; and encouraging new schools to be built away from main roads.
The GCARE guidance also contains 10 targeted recommendations for schools, children and local communities that will help to minimise their exposure to air pollution. These include: rescheduling morning outdoor classes to the afternoon; encouraging children to keep their distance from idling cars; and encouraging parents to change their commuting habits.
Professor Prashant Kumar, Director of GCARE at the University of Surrey, said: “Nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our children and my experience tells me that there are some real health risks, caused by air pollution, in and around many of the schools in our country.
“In our new guidance booklet, we set out to give schools, parents and local communities actionable advice which we believe will make a significant, positive impact on the quality of the air that our children breathe on school days.”
The guidance booklet was constructed around significant findings from a number of GCARE studies, including research into how air pollution impacts babies travelling in prams and primary school driven initiatives to influence commuting routines.
The work, which can be accessed alongside several other free public resources, also builds upon the GCARE’s Guildford Living Lab (GLL) activities. GLL is a platform for collaboration between researchers, decision-makers and the local community. Significant outcomes and achievements of the GLL to date include research publications on plant species selection for air quality and green infrastructure modelling.
Professor Stephen Holgate, UK Research and Innovation and Met Office Clean Air Champion, and Special Advisor to the Royal College of Physicians on Air Quality, said: “We urgently need a joined-up approach to communication, which is one of the next important tasks for us in our role as UKRI/Met Office Clean Air Champions. This booklet is so helpful. It is clear, informative and very nicely presented. It is an excellent example of an effective approach to communicating complex science by using practical and accessible messages.”
Professor David Sampson, Vice-Provost, Research and Innovation, at the University of Surrey, said: “GCARE exemplifies what the University of Surrey is all about – doing research that makes a difference, working in partnership with co-creators and end-users of our research. From the fundamentals of fluid mechanics to the practicalities of planting trees and shrubs to alter micro-environments and more, we see knowledge generated by public support being used to give back to society, to improve our children’s health. The University is very proud of Professor Kumar and team’s contribution through this booklet.”
The GCARE team thank all collaborators and reviewers, and acknowledges support received from the University of Surrey’s Living Lab Grant (2019-20), EPSRC PhD studentship projects (1948919 and 2124242), the iSCAPE project (Grant Agreement #689954); and the EPSRC INHALE project (EP/T003189/1).