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“London schools exposed to illegal levels of pollution”
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“London schools exposed to illegal levels of pollution”

A new report reveals that many children in the U.K. are exposed to harmful chemical toxins in their schools, writes Ruth Adeyi, 24, a Correspondent from London, UK. How London’s Mayor responds to this crisis will be a test of his leadership.

A report commissioned by London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has found that thousands of children and young people are exposed to illegal levels of the chemical nitrogen dioxide, which can cause severe health problems.

Air samples collected reveal excessive levels of toxins were were found within 150 meters of all levels of educational institutions – from nursery schools to post-secondary college.

Of 1269 schools examined, researchers found that 20 per cent of primary schools, 18 per cent of secondary schools, 43 per cent of higher education colleges and one third of state nursery schools in London had illegal levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide.

According to EU regulations, no more than 40 micrograms (mcg) of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air is considered legal. That stands in stark contrast to the measurement of 73.1 mcg found near the Courtland Institute of Art in Tower Hamlets. Similarly, St Anne’s nursery school in Kensington and Chelsea measured in at 54.8 mcg of nitrogen dioxide.

Expert have warned that children exposed at over 800 schools including children as young as three could face permanent health complications. The revelation has been regarded as a public health emergency and urgent action has been called for by Khan.

Dr. Francis Gilchrist of Royal Stoke University hospital said the effects of children being exposed to nitrogen dioxide could be long term. “If you damage your lungs in childhood you are likely to see these effects right through into adulthood, so there is a lifelong impact.”

One action to reduce pollution Mayor Khan is taking is to reduce the amount of cars on London’s roads.

Since the study has been released, Khan has announced 11 low-emission bus zones will be introduced to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions in London. These zones will prioritise putting the greenest buses on highly polluted routes. The Mayor has already declared Putney High Street as one of the low emission zones.

In a public statement, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The government is firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.”

More than £2 billion has been spent since 2011 on ultra-low emission vehicles and greener transport. A new programme of clean air zones will be introduce in the upcoming months to encourage the use of alternative fuels and will target buses and taxis.

photo credit: David Holt London via photopin (license)
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About me: My name is Ruth and I live in London. My main interest is the “International Drug Complex”. Using existing research on the failed “war on drugs”, I hope to draw awareness to how the international community and legal intervention in different countries is re-interpreting drugs, the drug market, and law enforcement.

My other interests include feminist theory, international trade and labour, climate change and environmental policy, and issues of social justice.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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