Millions of UK children worry about air pollution near school

Children from Flora Stevenson Primary School in Orchard Brae, Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
Children from Flora Stevenson Primary School in Orchard Brae, Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
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Millions of UK children worry over air pollution near their school, according to a survey.

More than two fifths (43 per cent) of children polled – who live in towns and cities – are now concerned about the levels, new figures reveal.

A YouGov poll, carried out for Sustrans – the walking and cycling charity, surveyed more than 1,000 children aged six to 15 years old about their attitudes towards air pollution and the actions they think should be taken to help clean up the air.

More than one in three (38 per cent) of those surveyed think encouraging more people to cycle, scoot or walk to school is the best way to reduce levels of air pollution.

The number of children who say they are concerned about air pollution rose to over half, or 53 per cent, in London.

More than one in three (34 per cent) thinks that politicians are most responsible for bringing down levels of air pollution – and 29 per cent believed drivers should take responsibility themselves.

Children are among the most vulnerable to air pollution, according to last year’s annual report of the Chief Medical Officer.

And more than 2,000 schools and nurseries are near to roads with damaging levels of motor emissions, an investigation in 2017 by The Guardian and Greenpeace found.

The survey by Sustrans was released today to launch the Big Pedal 2018, to encourage more young people to cycle, walk and scoot to school.

Held annually, this year’s event – running until 4 May – will see more than half a million children and young people get on their bikes and scooters for their journeys to and from school.

Sustrans is also calling on government and councils to invest in cycling and walking infrastructure and further training and engagement programmes which will enable more young people to travel actively to school every day.

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ chief executive office, said: “This survey demonstrates for the first time that children are aware and concerned about poor air quality.”

World record breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont, from Edinburgh, said: “Fewer cars around school gates will play a significant role in reducing congestion and improving the quality of the air we breathe.

“Events like the Big Pedal can demonstrate to children, parents and teachers just how easy it can be to travel actively to and from school.”