Time to quit THE two-a-day habit?
08 March 2017 I London Play
On National No Smoking Day, London Play is campaigning for exclusion zones to be established around schools to prevent children from being exposed to a greater public health risk - pollution.
More premature deaths – around 9,500 a year – are attributable to pollution in the capital than to smoking, which accounts for around 8,400. Meanwhile recent data from City Hall reveals that pupils in 360 primaries in London breathe dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). More than 1,100 schools are within 150m of roads which carry in excess of 100,000 cars a day.
“You wouldn’t give your child a cigarette on the way to school. Yet we are continuing to drive our children to and from schools where pollution levels regularly exceed EU health guidelines,” said London Play director Paul Hocker. “We want people to understand that in doing so, they are contributing to toxic air which causes more premature deaths in the capital than smoking does.”
Last year, London Play submitted a paper entitled ‘Gasp!’ to the UN’s committee on children and the environment, proposing that streets around schools are closed at the beginning and end of the school day. This would limit traffic and mean not only cleaner air, but also safer roads and more active children who can confidently walk, cycle or play outside their schools.
Play streets – where roads are closed to through traffic for a few hours on a regular basis so that kids can play out and neighbours can get to know each other – are already running in hundreds of residential roads in the capital. Play streets outside schools are not yet commonplace, but the idea seems to be gaining credence across London. Several schools in Hackney, Camden, Croydon and Islington all regularly running play streets, albeit weekly or monthly rather than daily. Meanwhile in Havering, the council has imposed a zone around four schools where motorists are fined for dropping or collecting children within a five street radius.
School play streets are a great part of the solution, according to the charity. “We applaud the measures that London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is taking on tackling air quality,” said Paul. “But they will take plenty of time to take effect. This idea is quick and cheap to implement and means instant results for the benefit of our most vulnerable citizens, our children.
Schools (or anyone) who is interested in establishing a play street outside a school or on residential roads can contact London Play for help. www.londonplay.org.uk