AQMesh has partnered with Warwick District Council and Stratford District Council to install air quality monitoring pods at six local primary schools, as part of this year’s national Clean Air Day.
AQMesh loaned 10 of its air quality monitoring systems to two local councils to be installed at the entrances of five schools across Warwick and Leamington Spa, with a further two installed at a primary school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The data from the pods will be used to show how pollutant levels vary throughout the day and could encourage parents to use alternative methods of travelling to school instead of driving.
Led by Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day takes place in the UK each year to bring communities and organisations together to help raise awareness and improve public understanding of air pollution, what causes it, how harmful it is and what can be done to reduce it. This year’s Clean Air Day is Thursday 17th June and will be focused on pollution’s impact on children, with the campaign’s key message being ‘Let’s protect our children’s health from air pollution’.
Councillor Christopher Kettle, Community Protection Portfolio Holder at Stratford District Council, said: “Stratford District Council is committed to supporting national Clean Air Day on June 17 to improve, in particular, air quality around schools. School pick-up and drop-off are some of the busiest times for local traffic – leaving the car at home can cut congestion, improve air quality and improve health.” Whilst Councillor Judy Falp, Portfolio Holder for Health and Community Protection at Warwick District Council added: “Contrary to popular belief, switching off your engine does not use more fuel or cause issues with the engine. It’s important for us all to be consciously aware of the little changes we can make that will have a big impact on the air quality in Warwick district.”
Jon Queralt, Associate Headteacher of Emscote Infant School, who have one of the pods outside their main entrance, also says: "We hope this will encourage families to give the car a day off and to walk, cycle or scoot to school whenever possible. As an eco-school we have always focused on teaching the importance of being environmentally aware by encouraging the children to walk to school, turn off the tap, switch off the lights and recycle. By having the air monitor installed and explaining to the children how it can help us to look after our environment, we can start to make even bigger changes which we hope will lead to a better quality of life and health for our community as a whole."
AQMesh has been used in a number of similar school studies over the years to raise awareness about the effects of pollution on children’s health, particularly on how harmful idling engines can be during school drop-off and collecting times. For example, four AQMesh pods are currently installed around schools in Kitchener, Canada: the results of the study will hopefully encourage more parents to walk or cycle to school, or turn to electric cars, and the City of Kitchener may also consider implementing new idling laws. 22 AQMesh pods are also deployed outside schools across Newcastle, UK, that are located next to major roads. Newcastle City Council want to raise awareness of air quality issues and encourage fewer car journeys to and from school.
Recently, 30 AQMesh pods were used to carry out a study of schools throughout London, UK, as part of the Mayor’s ‘Streetspace for London’ plan. Based on the approach used in the Breathe London pilot network, AQMesh pods were installed to investigate the benefits of a new ‘School Streets’ initiative. The plan involved monitoring pollutant levels where sections of roads would be closed at certain times of the school day and comparing them with the levels at sites where the roads were not closed. Data from the AQMesh pods demonstrated that road closures at some of the school sites contributed to a 34% reduction in nitric oxide (NO) and a 23% reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) during the morning drop-off period. The full report from that study can be found here.
In the UK alone it is estimated that poor air quality causes around 36,000 deaths each year, with that figure rising to seven million globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that pollution is the largest environmental health risk the population faces. Long-term exposure to NO2 can cause and worsen asthma, particularly in children, and fine particle matter (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs and reduce lung development and reduce function. AQMesh is committed to supporting initiatives around the world to help measure, manage and mitigate global air pollution and its impact on people’s – particularly children’s – health.
Amanda Billingsley, Managing Director of AQMesh comments: “An appreciation of how much air pollution varies around schools – over time and short distances – can help us protect children from the highest pollution in the short-term, while we all work to raise awareness of causes of pollution and how to improve air quality in the longer term. We hope that this practical project will have an impact in and around the schools involved while we continue to engage at a wider level with global projects and the sophisticated analysis required to fully understand local and regional air pollution and how to reduce exposure.”