Reducing air pollution could improve children’s memory

Reducing air pollution could improve a child’s ability to learn, according to new research published by Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation and the University of Manchester. 

To mark Clean Air Day 2020, the researchers have published modelling which demonstrates that reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution by 20% could enhance a child’s working memory by 6%, the equivalent of four weeks extra learning time per year. 

Currently, up to 2,000 schools and nurseries are located near roads with air pollution above the baseline level of nitrogen oxide (NO2) used in the model, meaning that at least 500,000 children are exposed to levels of pollution that would affect their memory. 

During peak lockdown air pollution decreased by an average of 40%, therefore the researchers have said that reducing air pollution by 20% is viable. 

To encourage urgent action, campaigners are calling on the government and local councils to guide schools using the newly launched Clean Air for Schools Framework, developed by the three organisations behind the research. 

The framework is a free online tool that gives teachers, parents and local authorities a bespoke set of actions for tackling air pollution both in and around school. 

Chris Large, Co-CEO at Global Action Plan says: ‘This year-long research project has uncovered the effects air pollution has on our children’s ability to learn, as well as their health.

‘Given lockdown restrictions have already impeded learning time, we must give all children a fighting chance, especially those in pollution hotspots who are also likely to be victims of the attainment gap.

‘The new Clean Air for Schools Framework is now available for free to help any school set up a clean air action plan, but schools cannot do this alone.

‘We ask the government to bring together all parties with potential solutions — NGOs, local government, education leaders and businesses — to combine under one national effort to eliminate harmful pollutants from schools.’

Air Quality News is teaming up with Global Action Plan for Clean Air Day LIVE – the events will be live-streamed on the Air Quality News and Clean Air Day website from 10 AM today. 



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