Clean Air Day: Over a quarter of UK schools are above WHO air pollution limits.

30 06 2021 | 09:36

On Clean Air Day 2021, Global Action Plan released new data which finds over a quarter of all UK schools, are located in areas which are above World Health Organization (WHO) air pollution limits for the pollutant PM2.5 (10ug/m3).  

The data collected by EarthSense is the most comprehensive and up-to-date sample of air pollution taken from all schools across the UK and is based on data input from a 2019 annual average data set. The data measures concentrations of PM2.5. PM2.5 is formed of tiny particles that can cross from the lungs into the blood and then move around the body causing conditions such as heart and lung disease.  

The WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for key air pollutants that pose health risks. Of the 7,852 schools above the WHO PM2.5 limit of 10ug/m3, including nursery, primary, secondary and sixth forms, 98% (7692) are in England. 

The charity reviewed the air quality outside schools because children are particularly vulnerable to its impacts and spend a significant amount of time at school. Starting in the womb, toxic air can harm children’s health, causing or triggering asthma, damaging lung development, and as revealed on Clean Air Day 2020, it can even affect their ability to learn.  

This year’s Clean Air Day theme “protect our children’s health from air pollution” further highlights the urgency to safeguard our children’s health after 2020 and 2021 saw our children bear the burden of the global pandemic, compromising their freedom, education and mental wellbeing.  

Dr Maria Neira, Director at the WHO said: “These figures are unequivocally too high and harming children’s health. Schools should be safe places of learning, not places where students are at risk of health hazards. There is no safe level of air pollution, and if we care about our children and their future, air pollution limits should reflect WHO guidelines.” 

Larissa Lockwood, Director of Clean Air at Global Action Plan says: “We have seen the power of Clean Air Day to unite a movement, to bring confidence to talk about the importance of tackling air pollution even in trying times, and to push for change, but it can’t stop there."

Find out more on Clean Air Day 2021 here.



17 June 2021

Climate Action