As parents we all know how important it is that kids eat healthily, but did you realise that every time a child breathes – 30 times a minute – they bring air deep into their lungs? This means the quality of the air they breathe is just as important as the food they eat.
Air pollution causes asthma, as well as reducing how big a child’s lungs grow to, which has lifelong health effects. It also reduces cognitive function and has a huge range of other health impacts. Because of these issues, the PTA paid for diffusion tubes to measure the pollution levels in the Rosendale playgrounds and the roadsides. The diffusion tubes measured the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is caused by vehicle exhaust. We have summarised the final results from the diffustion tube analysis below. Analysis of the first half of the year can be found here.
1. Sadly pollution levels rose from September 2021 onwards. The reasons for changes in air pollution can be complex but it is certainly likely to be a combination of vehicle volumes around the school, perhaps more people driving during the colder, wetter months. The other factor that could have an impact is the colder temperatures (cold air is denser and can result in some pollutants hanging around for longer – see this article for reference ).
2.These levels of around 25 micrograms/m3 ( micrograms/cubic metre) are well above the legal World Health Organisation recommendation of 10micrograms /m3. The lowest reading is in August when all schools are off and the level drops to 14, not too far off the WHO reccomendation. This is because peak time traffic is significantly reduced in August and a big part of this is because parents are not driving the school run throughout schools in Dulwich (though it is not the only driver of traffic reduction in August, parents are more likely to be off work also etc). Therefore if Rosendale & all other local schools can help parents reduce single-family car use by walking, cycling, journey sharing, car-pooling, taking a mini bus or public transport instead of single family car trips, then all children will be able to breathe much healthier air.
3. When we compare the current year readings to the 2017 readings, what is really concerning is that there has not been any improvement in air quality. This is hugely disappointing because there have been measures like the Ultra Low Emission Zone implemented in 2019 ( central London) & October 2021 ( expanded to south circular) which have “cut nitrogen dioxide emissions by 22% across Greater London”. The green bars on the chart represent where the playground readings SHOULD be, if they were keeping up with the air quality improvements throughout London.
In summary pollution levels are at concerning levels and perhaps more concerningly have not improved in line with the rest of London. We need urgent action to reduce all school run traffic throughout the local area and there are really easy ways we can all help to do this, first and foremost by reducing our own school run car use.
If you would like support on how to reduce your own school run car use or to find out more about helping parents travel sustainably to Rosendale school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The non-catchment schools around Rosendale (Dulwich Prep, Dulwich College, Oakfield, & Rosemead) also create a signficant amount of through traffic & air pollution around Rosendale which you can see the impact of here. If you would like to join the growing numbers of parents & residents calling for more sustainable travel options for these schools too, please check out the Sustainable School Run campagin run by local parents. You can really help by simply staying in touch & spreading the word to others!
* Plese note – none of the nitrogen dioxide diffusion tube readings in this analysis have been bias adjusted, however this does not materially impact the general comparison to WHO recommended levels or the direction of travel since 2017.