City Hall has named the dozens of schools where London children breathe illegally toxic air, as Sadiq Khan committed to “bringing that number down to zero”.
A 2019 study found some 34 schools, colleges and universities – all in inner London – had above legal limits of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that can stunt the growth of children’s lungs.
The list includes 12 state primary schools, seven state secondaries, and 11 private schools.
Westminster is London’s worst affected borough, with 11 schools breaching toxic air limits there.
Camden, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets tied for second worst hit with three schools breaching legal limits in each borough.
The City of London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark also have schools where children breathe dangerous levels of pollution.
London’s illegally polluted state primary schools are:
- Argyle Primary School in Camden
- St Josephs Catholic Primary School in Camden
- St Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Hammersmith and Fulham
- St Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Lambeth
- Canon Barnett Primary School in Tower Hamlets
- Woolmore Primary School in Tower Hamlets
- Hampden Gurney Church of England Primary School in Westminster
- Christ Church Bentinck Church of England Primary School in Westminster
- St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School in Westminster
- St Mary’s Bryanston Square Church of England School in Westminster
- St Peter’s Eaton Square Church of England Primary School in Westminster
London’s illegally polluted state secondary schools are:
- Central Foundation Boys’ School in Islington
- Oasis Academy South Bank in Lambeth
- The St Marylebone Church of England School in Westminster
The private schools over the legal limit for air pollution are:
- Ashbourne Independent School, a sixth form college in Kensington and Chelsea
- St Paul’s Cathedral Scool, for children aged 4 to 13, in Westminster
- CATS College London, for GCSE and A Level students, in Camden
- EIFA International school, for children aged 2 to 16 years, in Westminster
- Portland Place School, for children aged 10 to 16, in Westminster
- Eaton Square Upper School Mayfair, a secondary school in Westminster
- Halcyon London International School, a secondary school in Westminster
- DLD College London, a secondary school in Westminster
- City of London School, a secondary school in the City of London
- Connaught House School, a primary school in Westminster
And the universities and colleges above legal air pollution limits are:
- City Lit in Camden
- Conservatoire for Dance and Drama in Camden
- Morley College in Lambeth
- King’s College London in Lambeth
- London College of Printing & Distributive Trades in Southwark
- Courtauld Institute of Art in Tower Hamlets
- University of Westminster in Westminster
- London School of Economics and Political Science in Westminster
- Royal Academy of Music in Westminster
Pollution at all these sites has decreased between 21% and 27% since 2016.
The schools named now have between between 40 micrograms – just over the legal limit – and 46 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the King’s College London and TfL research.
The study modelled the average pollution in a 150m radius from each school, college or university.
But for several schools, boroughs provided their own pollution measurements last year that were within the legal limit for pollution.
These were St Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Hammersmith and Fulham, Centrals Foundations Boys’ School in Islington, and St Paul’s Cathedral School and the City of London School in the City of London.
Overall, the number of London schools with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution has fallen dramatically in the past four years – state schools alone are down 97% since 2016.
No schools in outer London remain above the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
Oliver Lord, policy and campaigns lead for the Environmental Defense Fund Europe, said the health impact of air pollution “is not equal”.
“Whether kids attend school on a main road or in a leafy suburb should not determine the quality of air they breathe, which will affect them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“Our schools should become a catalyst for safer, quieter and less polluted roads.
“This means ending the wild west of diesel deliveries, enabling more cycling and expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone as soon as practically possible.”
The Mayor of London yesterday (Tuesday November 10) announced a new London Schools Pollution Helpdesk to advise on how to slash pollution.
Recommendations could include shutting roads around a school at drop off and pick up times.
Transport for London has already funded 430 such projects as part of London’s coronavirus recovery, with 300 already in place across 23 boroughs.
Schools might also put up screens around playgrounds, or encourage walking and cycling.
Pupil drop offs account for a quarter of morning traffic in London, according to a TfL study, but the average journey is just one kilometre.
“I am doing everything in my power to stop Londoners breathing air so filthy that it damages children’s lungs and causes thousands of premature deaths every year,” Mr Khan said.
“The Ultra Low Emission Zone has already cut toxic air by a third and led to reductions in roadside nitrogen dioxide that are five times greater than the national average.”
But the Mayor admitted that “there is still more to do” and pollution “isn’t just a central London problem”.
Some 98% of schools in the capital remains above the World Health Organisation recommended limit for pollutant dust particles known as PM2.5.
This tiny dust can penetrate the lining of the lungs, meaning it is breathed into the bloodstream:
The WHO believes it should not be above 10 micrograms per cubic metre, but these targets are not legally binding.
Mr Khan said he wants the Government to make that guidance law as part of the upcoming Environment Bill.
Expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge to the North and South Circular roads next year will also help address the problem in London, he said.
But Caroline Russell, Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, welcomed the Mayor’s action but said it was “not a time to celebrate just yet”.
“Recently published data shows that London is the worst capital in Europe for health costs associated with pollution,” she said.
“We need to get the levels down, particularly when we’re collectively fighting against Covid-19, a virus that also attacks the respiratory system.”
Ms Russell said the new schools data shows “big questions need to be answered” about toxic air.
“We need to understand if the Mayor’s work on air pollution goes far enough,” she added.