The 50 most polluted primary schools in London are to get toxic air audits to help them dramatically cut pupils’ exposure to filthy fumes.
Announcing extra help for them to bring in anti-pollution measures, Sadiq Khan branded the air quality around schools “shameful”. He warned that 360 schools in the capital are in pollution hotspots.
He spoke as the capital emerged from its worst dose of toxic air in six years. Yesterday Mr Khan declared the first “black alert” for very high air pollution since he came to power in May.
With a high pressure system creating cold, calm and settled conditions in the past week, severe particulate pollution hung over London, with levels reaching “very high” on Sunday evening — the worst since April 2011.
Toxic air hot the top “black alert” early yesterday morning, leading to one school — Sir John Cass’s foundation primary in the City — restricting time outdoors for young children.
By 9am today the level of PM2.5 particulates had fallen below the “black” level of 100 microgrammes per cubic metre at the school. However it was still on “red” alert for “high” pollution. Similar peaks were recorded at Swiss Cottage and Ley Street in Redbridge.
Mr Khan set out plans for transport and environment experts to carry out audits of the 50 most polluted schools and make recommendations to reduce dirty air.
All the schools are in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the legal limit. Measures could include:
- moving school entrances and play areas away from busy roads;
- banning engine idling;
- planting “barrier bushes” along roads and in playgrounds to block fumes;
- minimising emissions from school boilers and kitchens;
- organising “walking buses”, with large groups of pupils walking together along pavements to get them out of cars.
- Councils changing street layouts, restricting the most polluting vehicles from driving around schools, and pedestrianising entrances.
The Mayor has allocated £250,000 to the audits, which if successful could be extended. Boroughs will then work with schools to bring in the changes, using part of £1 billion “Healthy Streets” funding over the next five years.
Mr Khan announced the audits at an event with pupils who have worked with Greenpeace on a letter — signed by 100 schools — urging him to continue fighting air pollution.
He said: “Every child deserves the right to breathe clean air in London and it is a shameful fact that more than 360 of our primary schools are in areas breaching legal pollution limits.
“Yesterday I was forced to issue the first ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new system, London’s filthy air is a health crisis and our children are particularly vulnerable.”