Scotland

The kids are fuming: Pupils track pollution on the school run

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Media captionSchoolchildren join forces with environmental experts to measure pollution.

Pupils at a Glasgow school have joined forces with pollution analysts to measure the effect of the school run on air quality. BBC Scotland's health correspondent Eleanor Bradford spent an afternoon with them.

I thought I'd be early when I arrived at Bearsden Academy an hour before home-time, but to my astonishment cars started arriving almost immediately.

Teachers told me that as it nears 15:45, the school gates become chaotic with parents double and triple-parked, many leaving their engines running while they wait.

I was there to watch a group of pupils become scientists for a few days.

"We hope the pollution will go down after this," said 12-year-old Katie.

"We're hoping more people will start to walk," added 13-year-old Rebecca, "because there are quite a few people who live close to school but who still drive. When everyone leaves school at the same time it can get very, very busy."

Pollution is the second biggest environmental killer after smoking, and the school has asked parents to reduce their car use many times without success.

Now pupils will show their parents exactly what effect the exhaust emissions are having on the air they are breathing.

Environmental analysts, Ricardo AEA, have provided the children with a mobile monitoring station. Pupils push this trolley around the local roads, measuring particles of black carbon and other tiny dust which can enter the lungs and bloodstream.

More monitoring stations are discreetly mounted on lamp posts, and even in pupils' own front gardens.

Image caption Pupils are able to monitor the amount of carbon particles in the air during busy periods
Image caption The campaign to persuade parents to leave the car at home is already bearing fruit

Over two weeks, the children entered the results into a computer programme. Ricardo AEA's air quality expert, Stuart Sneddon, said pollution levels around Bearsden Academy would fail to meet EU and UK air quality standards if the measurements recorded by the children were repeated throughout the year.

"There's potentially a pollution problem around this school, and we had quite a quiet day as well," he said.

"Short-term air quality around the school at pick-up and drop-off times can be quite high, and anything which reduces the number of vehicles around the school will bring about an improvement in air quality."

The results have had quite an effect. Already the school estimates that the number of parents picking up their children by car has fallen by around a half, which even after a short time should have improved air quality in the surrounding streets.

It is now hoped that the Clear The Air project, which is funded by the Scottish government, can be rolled out to other schools in Scotland.

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