It’s natural to assume that when living in such densely populated and congested cities like London, indoors is the safest place to be. Particularly when it comes to potentially lethal air pollution, you’d be forgiven for thinking that indoors is best.

In reality, the results of a new study suggest that children in schools across London are being exposed to dangerous air pollution inside the classroom, which are often higherthan those outdoors. A team of scientists studied a series of primary schools and nurseries across London, in order to determine the extent to which pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide – primarily caused by vehicle emissions – are affecting the lives of children.

It’s been known for some time that children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of airborne pollutants than adults, which can have a devastating effect on the long-term health and development.  The study found that levels of PM10 were significantly higher inside the classrooms themselves than in the surrounding areas around the school.

For the most part, the excessive levels of indoor air pollution were attributed to outdoor pollution penetrating the premises in question and becoming trapped indoors. 

“Children living or attending schools nearer high-traffic density roads were exposed to higher levels of motor vehicle exhaust gases and had higher incidence and prevalence of childhood asthma and wheeze,” the report stated. 

“A higher incidence of childhood asthma was positively associated with exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Exposure to particulate matter was also associated with a higher incidence of wheeze in children.”

The researchers were clear to stress that they do not suggest initiatives that would effectively see classroom sealed off from the outdoors. If anything, prior studies have shown that adequate ventilation and lower temperatures can have a beneficial impact on the cognitive performance of kids in school.

Nevertheless, it has been suggested that local authorities should invest in advanced air filtration technology, which in tests has been shown to radically reduce airborne pollutants in interior spaces. 

“This report shows that indoor air pollution is a serious problem in our city’s schools, but the problem will not be resolved by simply opening or closing windows and doors. Instead, we need to reduce sources of air pollution in and near schools,” said a spokesperson for the mayor. 

The report itself further emphasized the importance of ensuring children in polluted cities like London are provided with safe and healthy environments in which to learn and develop. 

“Children spend a great deal of time inside school buildings. They are more vulnerable to airborne pollutants than adults not only because of their narrower airways, but also because they generally breathe more air per kilogram of body weight,” read the report. 

“The exposure of children’s developing lungs to air pollution can result in reduced lung function that persists through to adulthood, increasing susceptibility to respiratory and cardiovascular disease.”

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