Air Pollution in Schools 41% Above Acceptable Limit

As schools in the UK opened again last September, concerns about the quality of air in the country continued to grow. This came after Airly shared their findings of a study on air pollution levels in British schools that they recently conducted.

According to the study, approximately 41% of schools in the UK are choked in nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels that greatly exceed the acceptable limit set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). NOx is a pollutant that is produced through road traffic, particularly from emissions by diesel vehicles. It endangers not only the environment but human health as well.

When the country went into lockdown at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the quality of air in schools improved and registered safer levels. However, as human activity slowly started going back to normal, air quality began deteriorating again. This proved how much human activity can affect air quality, pollution, and human health.

The poor air quality in British schools exposes children to various health risks and is also believed to affect their cognitive intelligence, thereby impacting their ability to learn.

Heavy air pollution in several areas in the UK is caused by a dense housing population, a lack of green areas, and car emissions (particularly from older models). In a map that shows affected areas, London is classified as having the worst air pollution in the whole of Britain.

As a result of their findings, Airly came up with a campaign that provided schools in the country with air quality sensors designed to monitor pollution in the learning institutions’ surroundings. The reports will be collected in six months’ time after which, the findings will be used to come up with viable solutions for improving air quality in schools.

Devastating effects on children

Two separate examples show the devastating effects that exposure to toxic air has on children. One example is a real-life incident and the other is a storyline in a UK soap opera. 

Real-life example

Nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 after numerous trips to the hospital for severe asthma. Her mother, Rosamund, only became aware of the possible cause of Ella’s death just shortly before she started a campaign for her daughter.

Rosamund and Ella used to walk to school passing by an area with high air pollution levels. This exposed the young girl to dangerous pollutants like particulate matter (PM). An inquest was requested and the coroner’s findings confirmed what many already suspected – air pollution was a major contributor to Ella’s death.

Ella became the first person in the United Kingdom to have died because of air pollution.

Coroner, Phillip Barlow, called for the attention of the government, stressing the need for reducing PM pollution according to guidelines set by the WHO.

For her part, Rosamund requested the government to seriously consider the recommendations of the coroner. She also reiterated the importance of providing the public with easy-to-understand and accessible information about air pollution and its negative effects. Prior to Ella’s death, Rosamund had no knowledge about the effect of toxic air exposure on her daughter’s health. Had she known how to reduce air pollution exposure, her daughter would still be alive today.

Soap opera example

On the popular soap opera Coronation Street, Liam Connor, Jr., a 12-year-old character in the show, is seen having a hard time breathing while paramedics rush through the heavily congested streets of Weatherfield to save him.

While in the hospital, doctors inform Liam and his mother that his severe asthma attack was caused by traffic fumes.

The show’s scriptwriters worked together with the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK to ensure the situation is faithfully and accurately depicted.

The show’s goal was to raise awareness about the dangers of high levels of air pollution, particularly on children.

Dieselgate scandal

One of the contributors to the UK’s toxic air problem is the 2015 Dieselgate emissions scandal, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent German car manufacturer Volkswagen a Notice of Violation because they found cheat software in some of the company’s diesel vehicles. The software is a defeat device that manipulates emissions levels released during lab tests. Emissions are at safe levels during tests but when the vehicle is driven in real-world road conditions, NOx emissions revert to exceeding the legal limit.

Aside from VW, other car manufacturers were – and continue to be – implicated in the scandal. Mercedes-Benz, which has been subjected to several lawsuits, denies allegations of the Mercedes emissions scandal. Other affected car brands, including VW, have also denied using defeat devices. Nevertheless, they have been paying fines and claims and continue to recall vehicles so these can be fitted with safe engines.

Aside from VW and Mercedes-Benz, other brands involved in the scandal include BMW, Audi, Porsche, Peugeot, Nissan, Jeep, Suzuki, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Renault.

Your responsibility

If you want to help reduce NOx pollutants and protect Britain’s children, check with your manufacturer if your vehicle has a defeat device. Most of them have pages or links that allow you to enter your car’s details to access a list of affected models; Mercedes-Benz has a page dedicated to Mercedes emissions claim.

Once you’ve verified, get in touch with an experienced team of emissions experts, such as the ones you’ll find at, so you can file a diesel compensation claim. They’re ready to help you through the claims process every step of the way.

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