London Nurseries to Get Air Purifiers after Toxic Air Concerns

Mayor Sadiq Khan says toddlers’ exposure to air pollution is ‘inexcusable’.

A group of state-run nurseries in London are to be given air filtration systems as concern grows about the impact of the UK’s toxic air on some of the capital’s youngest and most vulnerable residents.

Five nurseries have been selected for the purifiers in the first wave, with 20 nurseries being audited to measure the extent of toddlers’ exposure to the potentially deadly particles from vehicles.

The move follows a report earlier this year for the mayor of London which found that air pollution was worse inside school buildings than in the surrounding streets, with potentially stark consequences for children’s health and cognitive ability.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who is rolling out the filtration systems and audits, said it was unacceptable that a generation of youngsters were having their health and ability to learn affected by air that was dangerous to breathe.

“It is completely inexcusable that the youngest and most vulnerable in our city face a daily threat to their health from the toxic air they breathe,” Khan told the Guardian. “This ongoing threat to public health from polluted air outdoors and indoors must be addressed.”

There is growing concern about air pollution in and around schools and the long-term impact on children’s health.

Earlier this year the Guardian reported that primaries across the country were trying to ban the school run to reduce pollution, while others have managed to close down roads outside their schools at the beginning and end of the day.

The paper also found that a growing number were installing air purifiers in an effort to protect children from the worst effects of air pollution. It reported on one school which found that particulate pollution exceeded WHO guidelines in every classroom, with two more than three times over the limit.

The new nursery audits will target sources of indoor and outdoor pollution, with five of the 20 nurseries trialling new air filtration systems to test their effectiveness at reducing indoor pollution.

The audits will focus on reducing NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 – the most dangerous particulate – as research shows children exposed to these smaller pollution particles and gases are more likely to grow up with lung problems and develop asthma.

The UK has the worst level of asthma in Europe and there were a record number of deaths from the condition last year.

Air pollution, which is linked to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, can also cause a range of debilitating lifelong conditions from heart disease and strokes to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dr Simon Lenton, a representative of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the very young were particularly at risk.

“Infants and children are more vulnerable as their lungs and brains are still developing,” he said. “Children and infants spend many hours in nursery or at school and it is imperative we know what air pollutants they are exposed to and then take action to ensure the air they breathe is as pure as possible.”

The new nursery audits follow similar schemes for primary schools in London earlier this year, which led to some schools taking action to close roads, upgrade their boilers, tackle engine idling and promote car sharing.

Khan said: “We’re already seeing measures to reduce pollution being introduced at the primary schools where we’ve delivered audits. I’m confident that by expanding this approach to nurseries we can move forward in our fight against London’s filthy air and protect thousands of young children.”

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