Air Around Hammersmith School 'Illegally Toxic'

City Hall names St. Paul's Primary on list with above legal limit pollution

St. Paul's CofE Primary, Hammersmith. Picture: Facebook

City Hall has named St Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Hammersmith as one of the schools in London where children breathe illegally toxic air.

A 2019 study found some 34 schools, colleges and universities – all in inner London – had above legal limits of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that research suggests can stunt the growth of children’s lungs. Sadiq Khan has said he is committed to “bringing that number down to zero”.

The list includes 12 state primary schools, seven state secondaries, and 11 private schools.

St. Paul’s is the only school in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham on the list. The school made their own pollution measurements last year that gave results that were within the legal limit for pollution.

The schools named now have between 40 micrograms – just over the legal limit – and 46 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the King’s College London and TfL research.

The study modelled the average pollution in a 150m radius from each school, college or university.

Overall, the number of London schools with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution has fallen dramatically in the past four years – state schools alone are down 97 per cent since 2016.

No schools in outer London remain above the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Westminster is London’s worst affected borough, with 11 schools breaching toxic air limits there.

Oliver Lord, policy and campaigns lead for the Environmental Defense Fund Europe, said the health impact of air pollution “is not equal”.

“Whether kids attend school on a main road or in a leafy suburb should not determine the quality of air they breathe, which will affect them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“Our schools should become a catalyst for safer, quieter and less polluted roads.

“This means ending the wild west of diesel deliveries, enabling more cycling and expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone as soon as practically possible.”

The Mayor of London yesterday (Tuesday November 10) announced a new London Schools Pollution Helpdesk to advise on how to slash pollution.

Recommendations could include shutting roads around a school at drop off and pick up times.

Transport for London has already funded 430 such projects as part of London’s coronavirus recovery, with 300 already in place across 23 boroughs.

Schools might also put up screens around playgrounds, or encourage walking and cycling.

Pupil drop offs account for a quarter of morning traffic in London, according to a TfL study, but the average journey is just one kilometre.

“I am doing everything in my power to stop Londoners breathing air so filthy that it damages children’s lungs and causes thousands of premature deaths every year,” Mr Khan said.

“The Ultra Low Emission Zone has already cut toxic air by a third and led to reductions in roadside nitrogen dioxide that are five times greater than the national average.”

But the Mayor admitted that “there is still more to do” and pollution “isn’t just a central London problem”.

Some 98 per cent of schools in the capital remains above the World Health Organisation recommended limit for pollutant dust particles known as PM2.5.

This tiny dust can penetrate the lining of the lungs, meaning it is breathed into the bloodstream:

The WHO believes it should not be above 10 micrograms per cubic metre, but these targets are not legally binding.

Mr Khan said he wants the Government to make that guidance law as part of the upcoming Environment Bill.

Expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge to the North and South Circular roads next year will also help address the problem in London, he said.

But Caroline Russell, chair of the London Assembly environment committee, welcomed the Mayor’s action but said it was “not a time to celebrate just yet”.

“Recently published data shows that London is the worst capital in Europe for health costs associated with pollution,” she said.

“We need to get the levels down, particularly when we’re collectively fighting against Covid-19, a virus that also attacks the respiratory system.”

Ms Russell said the new schools data shows “big questions need to be answered” about toxic air.

“We need to understand if the Mayor’s work on air pollution goes far enough,” she added.

The state primary schools listed are:

Argyle Primary School in Camden
St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Camden
St Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Hammersmith and Fulham
St Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Lambeth
Canon Barnett Primary School in Tower Hamlets
Woolmore Primary School in Tower Hamlets
Hampden Gurney Church of England Primary School in Westminster
Christ Church Bentinck Church of England Primary School in Westminster
St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School in Westminster
St Mary’s Bryanston Square Church of England School in Westminster
St Peter’s Eaton Square Church of England Primary School in Westminster

The state secondary schools are:

Central Foundation Boys’ School in Islington
Oasis Academy South Bank in Lambeth
The St Marylebone Church of England School in Westminster

The private schools over the legal limit for air pollution are:

Ashbourne Independent School, a sixth form college in Kensington and Chelsea
St Paul’s Cathedral Scool, for children aged 4 to 13, in Westminster
CATS College London, for GCSE and A Level students, in Camden
EIFA International school, for children aged 2 to 16 years, in Westminster
Portland Place School, for children aged 10 to 16, in Westminster
Eaton Square Upper School Mayfair, a secondary school in Westminster
Halcyon London International School, a secondary school in Westminster
DLD College London, a secondary school in Westminster
City of London School, a secondary school in the City of London
Connaught House School, a primary school in Westminster

And the universities and colleges above legal air pollution limits are:

City Lit in Camden
Conservatoire for Dance and Drama in Camden
Morley College in Lambeth
King’s College London in Lambeth
London College of Printing & Distributive Trades in Southwark
Courtauld Institute of Art in Tower Hamlets
University of Westminster in Westminster
London School of Economics and Political Science in Westminster
Royal Academy of Music in Westminster
Pollution at all these sites has decreased between 21 and 27 per cent since 2016.

Jessie Matthewson - Local Democracy Reporter

November 12, 2020