Clean Air Day 2020: Reducing air pollution levels could improve children’s learning, according to new data

Last updated at 05:21
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Lower air pollution levels could have a positive impact on children's learning, according to new findings

Reducing levels of air pollution by 20% could have a positive impact on children's ability to learn, according to new findings.

It's all part of the Clean Air for Schools Programme which is a research project headed up by the Global Action Plan, the Philips Foundation and the University of Manchester.

The programme looks at how indoor and outdoor pollution effects children and how it can be tackled in schools across the UK & Ireland.

The findings suggest lower pollution levels could improve a child's working memory by 6%, which is equal to about four weeks extra learning time per year.

How did air pollution levels change over lockdown?

Air quality data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed air pollution levels may have dropped by around 40% across the UK during April and May when lockdown was in full force earlier this year.

The organisations involved in the clean air programme would now like to see these lower air pollution levels maintained which they believe will benefit children.

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What's air pollution and why's it so important?

"Pollution of indoor and outdoor air affects the health of our children," said Martie van Tongeren who is a a professor in Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Manchester.

"We've spent a year investing how to improve air quality in and around schools which will benefit child's health and educational development and should be a priority for government, local authorities and schools."

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More people cycling and walking to school could help to improve air quality

Getting more children walking and cycling to school are some of the practices those involved in the project say could help keep air pollution levels down.

"...if we all try and change our habits, and in particular, walk and cycle for as many of our shorter journeys as we can, then we'll reduce congestion and improve air quality," said Eleanor Roaf who is the Director of Public Health for Greater Manchester.

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