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The Toxic School Run

Primary school children exposed to 30% more toxic pollution than adults while walking to school


A young girl in a pushchair at the side of the road as buses drive past

New research coinciding with 2018 Clean Air Day on 21 June, found that primary and nursery school children are being exposed to 30% more particulates and NOx compared to adults when walking along busy roads.


A simple solution, says Global Action Plan, the charity behind the research and Clean Air Day, is for all children to:

  • choose quieter back routes to walk,
    avoid walking on busy roads
    avoid being driven.

This will reduce their exposure to unnecessarily high levels of damaging air pollution.


The research found that pollution levels from petrol and diesel vehicles were 2.5 times lower for children walking along quiet roads. For those 50% of children being driven to school, the situation is in fact worse. They are exposed to double the pollution inside a vehicle compared to those walking on busy streets.


Using special monitoring equipment, Global Action Plan conducted experiments in four UK cities (Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, pictured below, and London) to illustrate the danger that journeys in cars, and along busy roads in particular, are having on the health of millions of children every day.


Says Professor Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine and Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health:


“Children’s lungs are especially vulnerable for those at primary school and younger, as they are still developing. It’s critical that we protect the health of our children’s lungs from air pollution, in order to prevent lasting damage.”


Clean Air Day is calling for people to walk or cycle to school or work, where possible.

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