Environmental law firm ClienEarth has launched the ‘Poisoned Playgrounds’ campaign – a nationwide awareness initiative aimed at highlighting the number of schools located in areas with high air pollution.
Launched on Monday (11 September), the campaign features a website which allows parents to see whether their child’s school is near a road with high levels of air pollution.
Supporters of the campaign are being urged to put pressure on the government via their MPs to introduce tough measures to tackle air pollution.
A video featuring young children from two schools is being released online alongside billboard ads in some of the most polluted towns and cities across the country, with details of the number of schools in their area near illegally polluted roads.
Commenting on the initiative, ClientEarth air quality lawyer Alan Andrews said: “Thousands of children in this country are playing in playgrounds near illegally polluted roads. This is a legal and moral failing of our political leaders that puts children’s health at risk at a time when they are still growing and therefore vulnerable. Naturally, parents want something to be done. So do we.”
ClientEarth, which won two court cases against the UK government over the country’s air pollution levels, has written to head teachers to raise awareness of the issues and advising on measures which could be implemented to reduce child exposure to pollution in school playgrounds.
The charity has also written to head teachers’ groups, including the National Association of Head Teachers.
Katie Horwood, Headteacher at Chestnuts Primary in Haringey said: “We have a duty to protect the health of children who attend the school. As well as educating them in class, we need to let them exercise in the playground. Pupils should be able to breathe healthy air when they are outside, but like many schools we have busy roads nearby and there seems to be a collective failure of those in power to take action to protect young people’s lives and lungs.
“While we, as a school, are doing what we can, it needs action from government to persuade drivers, particularly those with diesels, to use cleaner forms of transport and ultimately ensure that there is less traffic on roads near playgrounds.
“There should also be much better monitoring near schools, because while ours and many others aren’t within 150 metres of an illegally polluted road, we feel that we are exposing children to dirty, unhealthy, air that must be cleaned up.”
ClientEarth is calling for a national network of clean air zones, which would keep the dirtiest vehicles away from illegally polluted areas and people should be helped to move to cleaner forms of transport.