Tuesday 28 June 2011

Invisible menace threatens children's health

The North Circular at Neasden
I spent more than 10 years teaching at a primary school which was close to the North Circular in Brent. In contrast to other schools where I had taught there were high numbers of children on medication for asthma at the school. Classes often had 6-8 asthmatics compared with only one or two per class where I had taught before. Sports Day could be a nightmare. Although  local GP prescribing policies  may have contributed it appeared that the high level was down to the proximity of a very busy main road.

The impact of London pollution became clearer when we took children on residential trips. Children who had used an inhaler daily at school were able to do without them almost within hours of arriving at the Gordon Brown Outdoor Education Centre in Hampshire or the Youth Hostel in Epping Forest.As the coach reached the borders of London they began to request their inhalers.

New research by the Campaign for Clean Air has found that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day and a total of 2,270 schools are within 400 metres of such roads.

This revelation comes at a time when new scientific research indicates that children exposed to higher levels of traffic-related air pollution at school and home may be at increased risk of developing asthma. Scientists say living near roads travelled by 10,000 or more vehicles per day could be responsible for some 15-30 per cent of all new cases of asthma in children; and of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and CHD (coronary heart disease) in adults 65 years of age and older.

Jenny Jones, the Green Party London Mayoral candidate says:
* parents and teachers must be told when there are high pollution days
*  the Mayor of London has to act immediately to lower fares and reduce the total number of cars on our roads.
* create a very low emission zone which only allows the very cleanest vehicles to enter central London.
*  the Mayor must stick to the promise that all new buses will be hybrids from next year
* reinstate the plans for hybrid taxis which he dropped last year.
A map which shows the schools affected across London, and enables you to see Brent in details can be found  HERE 
or you can download a PDF listing the schools 150metres from a road carrying more than 10,000 vehicles per day HERE

Among the Brent schools listed are Copland High, Gower House, Jewish Free School, Oliver Goldsmith Primary, Our Lady of Grace (Dollis Hill) Our Lady of Lourdes (Stonebridge), Park Lane Primary, Preston Manor High, St Augustine's Primary (Kilburn), Stonebridge Primary,

Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air in London, said:
The government and Mayor Johnson must tackle an invisible public health crisis harming as many people now as we thought during the Great Smog in December 1952.

We need one or more additional inner low emission zones that ban the oldest diesel vehicles from our most polluted roads, and a massive campaign to build public understanding of the dangers of air pollution with advice on how people can protect themselves.

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