Home » Sustainable Living » The effects of air pollution and how to improve air quality at schools

Greg Lewis

Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, EarthSense

Air quality at schools affects not only the environment but the health of students and teachers. Poor air quality can lead to health problems such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Air quality at schools is a serious issue. Poor air quality can cause a range of health issues, such as asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems and even cause cognitive impairment. That’s why schools need to take steps to ensure that air quality is being monitored and that schools’ air quality standards are as high as possible. However, it is not always easy.  

Air pollution’s impact on children  

Poor air quality can lead to several health issues, especially in children. Schools should therefore monitor the air quality in their environment and take steps to improve it.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 breathe air so polluted that it puts their health and development at serious risk. Also, estimates show that in 2016 — 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air. 

A report published by UNICEF and the Queen Mary University of London found that children were exposed to higher levels of pollution, particularly while walking to school and on the playground. The effects of this pollution were more serious on children than on adults. 

How schools are improving air quality 

There are steps schools can take to improve air quality. Various measures can be taken such as monitoring schools’ air quality, implementing School Streets, installing filters and ventilation systems, improving building insulation, increasing green spaces, moving playgrounds away from busy roads and reducing vehicle emissions near the school premises.  

The lack of education about the risks of air quality is a major issue. Schools should educate students on how they can help reduce air pollution by choosing sustainable transportation options or avoiding activities that generate emissions like burning waste materials or wood fires. They could also get involved in events such as the Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel and Clean Air Day. For teachers, there are free resources and activities available to use in classrooms from charities; and Global Action Plan provides a Clean Air for Schools Framework. 

Poor air quality can lead to several health issues, especially in children. Schools should therefore monitor the air quality in their environment and take steps to improve it.

Green infrastructures, such as plant walls, can help create a physical barrier to help reduce exposure to air pollution from neighbouring roads. The Global Action Plan charity advises that, where possible, playgrounds are placed away from the road to improve air quality while students exercise and play. 

Restricting transport pollution also helps reduce children’s exposure. The Mums for Lungs charity have advice on how you can get involved with campaigning for School Streets, which temporarily closes the roads around schools at drop-off and pickup times. 

Monitoring air quality at schools 

Air quality monitoring is essential to ensure that the air quality within the school premises is safe. This can involve monitoring the levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone present in the air.  

Using an air quality sensor such as the Zephyr® will let you collect air quality measurements in real time, giving visibility of air quality concentrations at its location. Schools should also be aware of any local or regional regulations regarding acceptable levels of these pollutants when setting their own air quality guidelines. 

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