Hopes and Dreams Nursery School in Islington is installing 11 of Radic8's air purification units in its building to remove nitrogen dioxide and other indoor pollutants, such as formaldehyde, from the air.
To make the units more appealing to children and help them understand their use, the nursery has introduced a concept of Clean Air fairies.
Owner Susan Bingham said the nursery first became aware of the problem when the Guardian published a list of 802 nurseries, schools and colleges in London that were found to be in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide breached EU legal limits.
The European nitrogen dioxide legal limit is 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air.
Greenpeace contacted the nursery and parents were encouraged to contribute to London mayor Sadiq Khan’s air quality consultation on bringing forward the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone to April 2019.
‘We felt like this was something we could get involved with,’ Ms Bingham explained. ‘We sent a letter to parents asking them to sign up, but as we were all obviously very concerned I started to think about what else we could do. I can’t change what is outside the door but I felt there must be some way we could improve things. So I did some investigation into equipment we could buy and felt very overwhelmed by the range and choice.’
Ms Bingham ended up buying a small air purification unit she found on the Radic8 website, but decided to also contact the chief executive of the company, Richard Greenwood.
‘I wasn’t sure whether it was right, so I decided I really needed to speak to them directly,’ she said. ‘I rang him up and he inspired me totally with the range of equipment and what they could do. Between us we came up with the idea of working together to fit out the entire nursery and also to try and make it child-friendly.’
As part of Radic8’s We Share Clean Air campaign, the pair developed the idea of Clean Air Fairies, a team of magical helpers designed to teach the children about clean air and where to find it. Radic8 helped design posters for the nursery informing children and parents of the arrival of the units, and wrote a song for staff to use with children about the benefits of clean air.
‘We have been making wands and wings and the machines on the walls will look lovely covered in fairies,’ Ms Bingham said. ‘We want the children to see the fun side of it and not just see scary new units, so we have colouring books and balloons. Each fairy has a name and each one does a different job, catching toxins or pollens or other germs in the air, so it gives children something to work on.’
All rooms were measured and Radic8 assessed which units would be suitable for each part of the nursery. Units will be installed on the walls of every room in the nursery, including the staff room and kitchen, plus three standing units to be fixed to the floors.
Ms Bingham said, ‘We feel very passionately about doing something positive in the children’s environment, but with an emphasis on the air outside. It is not about shutting the windows and staying indoors but about encouraging children to learn about pollution and how to make better decisions for the air and world around them, to continue to use the outdoors, and to repurify the air in the nursery to make it healthier, at least until we can clean up the air around us.’
The nursery now hopes to monitor the results with the ongoing help of the Radic8 team.
Ms Bingham said, ‘We have been told that the sickness rate will go down massively, and it will help staff and children who suffer with hayfever and so on. Although it has been a bit of a financial hit, as far as I’m concerned it is a win-win situation across the board. It’s about doing something positive by keeping healthy and raising awareness. Maybe this will encourage others to do similar things and hopefully the Government will start to think about doing something radical about the problem.’