air pollution

Poorest London children face health risks from toxic air, poverty and obesity

air pollution
The report found 85% of schools most affected by air pollution teach students from deprived neighbourhoods. Photograph: Elizabeth Dalziel/Greenpeace

Schools in capital worst affected by air pollution are in most socially deprived areas with high levels of obesity, finds study

September 19, 2017 — Tens of thousands of the poorest children in London are facing a cocktail of health risks including air pollution, obesity and poverty that will leave them with lifelong health problems, according to a new report.

The study found that schools in the capital worst affected by the UK’s air pollution crisis were also disproportionately poor, with high levels of obesity.

Saul Billingsley, from the FIA Foundation, an international environmental and road safety charity which carried out the study, said: “Children from some of London’s most socially deprived areas are not only affected by unacceptable levels of air pollution around their schools, they also face compounding health risks.”

The report found:

  • 85% of the schools most affected by air pollution have pupils that come from deprived neighbourhoods
  • Almost nine in 10 of the secondary schools most affected had levels of obesity higher than the London average
  • 86% of worst affected primary schools were in catchment areas with lower than average car ownership

Jonathan Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said the health consequences for these children could be “very serious”.

“This is going to have major consequences not just in childhood but over the whole of the life course.”

Professor Grigg, a founding member of the Doctors Against Diesel campaign group, said children from disadvantaged backgrounds often did have access to green spaces but when they did go outside, they were more likely to be breathing dangerously polluted air.

“This is a dangerous combination of factors … childhood is a critical time in terms of health. Children should have the right to breathe air that does not cause them harm.”

illegal air pollution
Doctors Against Diesel said ‘children should have the right to breathe air that does not cause them harm’. Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

Earlier this year the Guardian revealed that children at more than 800 schools, nurseries and colleges in London, and more than 2,000 across England and Wales, are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution.

The analysis of government data revealed how dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution from diesel traffic are not limited to large metropolitan centres, but threaten the health of children and young people in towns and cities from Newcastle to Plymouth.

Pollution from diesel traffic causes 23,500 of the 40,000 premature deaths each year attributed to air pollution, with young people particularly vulnerable, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Last week London mayor Sadiq Khan described air pollution as “the biggest public health emergency of a generation”.


guardian_64 by Matthew Taylor | The Guardian