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How clean is our air?

Heavy traffic on a London A road

A report produced by the University of Cambridge presents a worrying picture for schools in London. The Indoor Air Quality in London’s Schools report was commissioned by the Greater London Authority and was partly triggered by concern over the fact that the UK has the highest prevalence of childhood asthma among all European countries. Almost 10% of children suffer from symptoms of asthma.

The report includes seven case studies with three classrooms in each school being investigated closely. It found that more airtight buildings may offer greater protection to those occupying them. Classrooms parallel to the wind direction did less to help with natural ventilation and issues such as carpeting also had a negative effect.

However, the study does not ask for schools to be sealed off. Other factors also have to be taken into account including improvement in cognitive performance at lower temperatures and where there is more ventilation. However, the study does raise some worrying questions about the level of damage from air pollution and how schools can best be equipped to protect their children.

The prevalence of asthma was particularly high in urban schools ranging from 7.9 to 12.5% while in suburban schools; it was from 1.5 to 1.6%. Highest asthma prevalence was reported in the school nearest to a street with heavy traffic. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has taken up the issue and announced a £million fund to help tackle the problem.

The report is available at https://bit.ly/2K5pImO.