Vast majority of UK schools exceed safe air pollution levels

97% of the UK schools monitored by Airly in the #LetSchoolsBreathe project experienced levels of PM2.5 that exceeded the safe norms set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The research found that 35 out of 36 schools experienced unsafe levels of PM2.5, while the safe annual norm for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was exceeded at 65% of schools.

Airly started installing air pollution sensors in schools across the UK in April 2021 to help children and parents understand more about air pollution levels.

The sensors monitored air quality 24 hours a day in the immediate vicinity of 36 schools based in 9 UK cities.

The cleantech platform today published the results this monitoring, as part of the UK #LetSchoolsBreathe campaign.

Every school studied experienced exceedances of daily norms for NO2 and PM2.5. For 50% of schools, these daily norms were exceeded every other day, while the remaining schools experienced exceedances every third day.

boy in black hoodie sitting on chair

‘Pupils are exposed to high concentrations of NO2 and PM2.5 mainly during travel to school and in school playgrounds. Airly’s outdoor monitors have been positioned in such a way as to be able to determine what kind of air students breathe when they are near the school building,’ commented Marcin Gnat, spokesperson for Airly.

‘Thanks to the data we have collected, we know the situation is far from perfect, but the first step towards pollution-free schools has been made. This step is to make air pollution a topic for discussion among school communities, having the necessary knowledge and understanding of the causes of pollution and its impact on health, we give hope to the young generation into a world with cleaner and healthy air.’

St Anselm’s Primary School in London experienced the most polluted air, whereas Davidson’s Mains School in Edinburgh experienced the least polluted air, with mean PM2.5 concentration below 5 ug/m3.

The highest concentrations of NO2 occurred during the morning and afternoon, strictly correlated with traffic patterns at times when the pupils are entering and exiting the school.

The highest concentrations of NO2 and PM2.5 occurred in the vicinity of congested roads, in dense urban areas.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox


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2 years ago

And what about village schools? I am not aware that anyone is checking the air quality outside those. I see parents with their engines on as they come to collect and wait outside the school in the afternoon. Same with buses in small towns, there is plenty of diesel in the air. But this not being measured. The pollution is not only in our cities but I do understand it must be particularly bad in densely populated zones. If families start moving out of town,for better air, will that improve matters or spread the heavy polluiton out further?.

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