Data shows air quality at Islington schools improving – but three still breached Nitrogen Dioxide limits

PUBLISHED: 17:31 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:52 12 February 2020

Pupils at Winton Primary School celebrate Islington�s 10th School Street, which was launched in June 2019. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Pupils at Winton Primary School celebrate Islington�s 10th School Street, which was launched in June 2019. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Em Fitzgerald Photography

New data suggests air quality at Islington schools improved between 2016 and 2018 – but three still breached Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) limits.

Air quality before and after maps for Islington schools. Picture: Islington CouncilAir quality before and after maps for Islington schools. Picture: Islington Council

Islington Council released data on February 10 which appears to show the level of NO2 per cubic meter (µg/m3) in primary and secondary schools in borough is improving compared to previously projected levels.

The EU advises annual NO2 levels shouldn't exceed 40µg/m3, but Whitehall Park School (42µg/m3), Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts (41 µg/m3) and City of London Academy Highbury Grove (41 µg/m3) all breached this in 2018.

Montem Primary School, Samuel Rhodes Primary and Yerbury Primary School each recorded 40µg/m3.

The latter's reading will strengthen the case of parents campaigning to stop Ocado from opening a delivery and refuelling deport next door to the Foxham Road school.

The council started monitoring NO2 levels outside schools in 2018 and figures range from around 25 to 42µg/m3.

In 2015, 39 of Islington's 58 primary and secondary schools exceeded EU air pollution limits.

Air pollution can vary from year-to-year due to factors like the weather, so longer term monitoring will be required to ensure the positive trend.

Environment and transport chief Cllr Rowena Champion said: "Air pollution is the biggest health emergency facing Islington residents, with more than two million Londoners living in areas that exceed legal limits for NO2, including more than 400,000 children.

"That is why we're committed to bold action to improve air quality around schools. We know children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of air pollution and so we are determined to continue to be at the forefront of the fight against it."

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In this year's budget, the council pledged to introduce a further 17 school streets, up from the 13 at present.

Under this scheme, only pedestrians and cyclists can use the road a schools on during drop-off and pick-up times.

Rachael Swynnerton, of the Islington Clean Air Parents (ICAP) campaign group, welcomed the "long overdue" release of the 2018 data, saying she hopes this "paves the way for a more transparent flow of information" from the new environment and transport chief, Cllr Champion.

She added: "It appears to show an improvement but [Islington Council is] comparing modelled data with actual monitoring data, our members would like to see the data released for 2019 as soon as possible to compare actual monitored air pollution levels in the borough."

Rachael says the colour coding on the council's air quality for 2016 and 2018 is "problematic" because the green key should be orange "in line with standard air pollution monitoring to indicate where schools are only just under the EU legal air pollution limits rather than giving the impression the air quality is safe."

She added: "We have also raised concerns about the locations of air monitoring diffusion tubes, we understand at some schools they are located on quieter streets with low levels traffic rather than on an adjacent road which has much higher volumes of traffic which could result in a false impression for that school. One parent said 'I am sceptical, it doesn't feel like a drop in air pollution'. We would also like to see monitoring for PM2.5."

ICAP also "feel the council could do more to actively discourage the use of private vehicles, taxis and other road transport", such as by reducing the number of car parking space and introducing low traffic neighbourhoods.

Islington's sole opposition councillor Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) said: "I've been calling for the schools' air pollution data to be published so it's good that the council is being transparent about this.

"The main roads are still showing worrying levels of NO2 pollution well above the legal limits which shows how important it is that the council is brave and robust about bringing in measures to reduce traffic across all areas of the council's work.

"Five schools will get air quality and anti idling workshops. This is great but we need ongoing commitment to this work raising awareness about the importance of reducing car use and switching of engines when stationary to protect health."

You can all school pollution statistics here.

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