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Simple actions can reduce air pollution in schools

The air in UK public schools doesn’t meet the safety standards issued by the World Health Organization. Air pollution has serious consequences, especially for developing children who spend 30 percent of their day in polluted schools. According to a new paper published in Atmospheric Environment, there are straightforward ways to remedy the situation. 

The health impacts of air pollution include behavioral problems; increased risk of cancer; and respiratory, lung, and brain diseases.

“Everybody, especially our children, deserves to live and work where the air is as clean and safe as possible,” said study co-author Prashant Kumar. “Unfortunately, the reality is far from ideal, with many of our schools unwittingly exposing children to harmful pollutants. The problem is particularly bad at schools near busy roads.”

Scientists with the University of Surrey Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) explored three ways to reduce indoor air pollution in schools. They tested installing a green screen along the school’s perimeter and putting air purifiers in classrooms. The team also implemented a “school streets” initiative, which prevents cars from driving past schools at drop-off and pick-up times. 

The researchers found that all of these methods improved air quality. Air purifiers lead to a 57 percent decrease in indoor air pollution, and the school streets initiative reduced pollutants by 36 percent. In addition, green screens reduced outdoor contaminants by up to 44 percent.

“Our partnership with Arup, Global Action Plan and the University of Surrey has shown there are practical ways that we can protect children in and around schools and can help guide schools to implement these solutions,” said Kate Langford with the Health Effects of Air pollution program at Impact on Urban Health.

“These measures now need to be combined with efforts from local authorities at regional and national levels to improve air quality and create healthier places for children to live, learn and play.” 

“My simple plea to decision-makers in the UK is this: simple actions speak louder than words,” said Kumar. “By giving every school resources to implement one of the measures detailed in our research, they could make a world of difference to tens of thousands of children in this country.” 

By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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