Parents call for nurseries to be banned in 'pollution hotspots'

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Parents are calling on the Government to release funding for ‘emergency measures’ to clean up illegal levels of air pollution near nurseries and schools.

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The group of parent campaigners want traffic exclusion zones around schools and nurseries

The National Clean Air for Children Programme, launched last week by the Clean Air Parents’ Network and supported by environmental law organisations ClientEarth and the British Lung Foundation, calls for £153m of funding to protect babies and children from the harmful effects of air pollution.

It follows research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showing that more than 90 per cent of children - 1.8 billion, are breathing toxic air, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Measures called for in the programme include banning any new nurseries, schools or playgrounds in ‘pollution hotspots’, carrying out a comprehensive air quality audit of nurseries, schools and playgrounds in known pollution hotspots and bring in traffic exclusion zones around schools, nurseries and playgrounds.

It also wants to provide schools and nurseries with a proactive alert system for high pollution events and guidance and support on how to protect children from air pollution throughout the year, and for new clean air laws to be introduced in the UK.

The programme has received the backing of more than 60 MPs, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Conservative minister Maria Miller. It is backed by more than 20 organisations, charities, professional bodies and unions including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the National Education Union and Asthma UK.

ClientEarth estimates that 13 schools, with more than 6,000 places, have been built or approved on or near roads with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide since 2012.

It says that a total of 21 schools were built or approved in the same period on or near roads with levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which can pass through the lung lining into the bloodstream – over World Health Organisation recommended limits.

The figures are based upon Government data.

'Chronic health problems'

Clean Air Parents’ Network member and mother of two Stephanie Romig, said, ‘I’m extremely worried about the impact that air pollution is having on my children. My youngest has had chronic health problems because of the dirty air that he’s forced to breathe.

‘We need urgent action from the Government to clean up our air so that my sons, and thousands of children like them, don’t continue to suffer.’

Simon Alcock, head of UK Public Affairs for ClientEarth, which has won three court cases against the Government over illegal levels of air pollution in the UK, said, ‘Parents are clearly and rightly concerned that the Government is failing to protect their children from the harmful effects of air pollution. This is a public health emergency and the Government needs to move fast to protect children’s health.’

The Government's Clean Air Strategy aims to halve the harm to human health from air pollution in the UK by 2030.

A Defra spokesperson said, 'While air quality in the UK has improved significantly since 2010, we understand the risk it continues to pose to human health, and realise more needs to be done.

'For that reason, we have introduced a £3.5bn plan to reduce harmful emissions and an ambitious Clean Air Strategy, which has been welcomed by the WHO. We will soon be going even further with new legislation to give local government new powers to take action in areas with a pollution problem.'

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