Toxic air slips under the radar of parents, despite the huge risk it poses to children’s lungs

Press release
Survey data released today by Friends of the Earth found that only 10% of parents with a child of school age (4-16) were worried about their child breathing dirty air while on school grounds, or on their way to or from school.
  Published:  19 Sep 2018    |      2 minute read

Despite the regular news headlines on the dangers of the UK’s air pollution, and numerous studies concluding the impact it can have on children’s lungs, survey data released today* found that only 10% of parents with a child of school age (4-16) were worried about their child breathing dirty air while on school grounds, or on their way to or from school,

However, concern about air pollution did rise to 28% among London parents. Bullying and making friends were chosen by parents as their biggest worries, with 59% and 44% respectively.  

These worrying results come as Friends of the Earth launches the latest edition of its Clean Air Schools pack; inviting schools everywhere to monitor air quality around them and engage children, parents and teachers in the fight for clean air.

With the risks of breathing toxic air still slipping under the radar of many parents, Friends of the Earth is calling for a range of measures, including Clean Air Zones, to fight air pollution and improve the health of children’s lungs everywhere. These findings also highlight the need for better public health communications when it comes to the risks of children breathing toxic air – especially when exposed to vehicle fumes outside the school gates.

The free Friends of the Earth’s Clean Air Schools pack has already equipped 950 schools with air quality monitoring tubes that test Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels, and taught pupils campaigning skills to make their voices heard: including how to write a persuasive letter to politicians and how to run a poster competition to raise awareness in their school.

Muna Suleiman, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“It’s understandable that bullying and making friends are big concerns of parents when sending their children to school, but it’s worrying that toxic air is an invisible danger that may be slipping under their radar.

“It’s nearly impossible to escape from the UK’s toxic air; with over two thousand schools, nurseries and after-school clubs across the country at risk from illegally polluted air. It’s shocking to think about the number of children this means are being exposed to toxic air, which unfortunately climbs even higher when accounting for school run routes going along polluted roads.

“It is children who suffer the most from dirty air, which can lead to higher numbers of childhood asthma cases and even children growing up with smaller lungs. We’re inviting schools everywhere to join us in the fight against air pollution.”

Schools can order a clean air schools pack here.


*Survey conducted by YouGov 7th-12th September. Total sample size was 6,453 adults, with all figures based on the 1,020 respondents who had children aged 4 to 16 who are in school. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by their rules.