- Kate Proctor
- Wednesday 4 January 2017
Children should be stopped from using playgrounds when London’s toxic air reaches dangerously high levels, a peer suggested today.
Former Labour Party chair Baroness Jones wants all schools and playgrounds to be fitted with air monitors so teachers can decide when it is safe for pupils to play outside.
The drastic move is vital to make sure their health is protected as poor lung development can lead to a range of issues in later life, she said.
Baroness Jones, who was the House of Lords spokesperson for the London 2012 Olympics, said: “If a reading is high the obvious thing is to introduce some controls in terms of parking near the school and for people dropping children off. If there are days when there are extra-high levels of air quality they could keep the children indoors.
“It would also help to raise awareness of the health threat to their children and the need for urgent government action to address this public health crisis.”
London’s toxic air
Councils are responsible for local air quality monitoring but Baroness Jones wants the Government to make checks compulsory in schools as “cash-strapped” councils will struggle to meet the cost. So far 10 London schools have been fitted with free carbon monoxide monitors by CleanSpace, which is attempting to create the largest digital mapping of air quality in London.
Company founder and biotech engineer Lord Drayson said: “Air quality is something that can be tackled. We’ve got a situation where modern technology can give us the street-by-street pollution information which can arm people and politicians with the information to take action.”
Among the steps Londoners can take to avoid dirty air is to walk to school using back routes, avoiding main roads. Walking on the inside of a pavement is also healthier, and avoiding exercise where there is bad pollution also cuts down on exposure to diesel fumes. Air pollution inside the home is another problem families face, he said.
Environment minister Lord Gardiner said the Government would not be making air quality monitors compulsory in schools and local authorities should continue to decide how best to measure pollution in their area.
He said: “Their local knowledge and interaction with the communities that they serve mean that they know the issues on the ground in detail and the solutions that are best suited to local circumstances.”
Following a High Court judgment that the Government’s air quality plan was illegal, a revised one for London will be set out this year.