Children at 225 Suffolk schools forced to breathe in polluted air

An air quality education workshop at St Pancras Primary School by Ipswich Borough Council

During an air quality education workshop at St Pancras Primary School by Ipswich Borough Council Year 5 pupils and the headteacher, Lucille Martin, took clean air pledges. - Credit: IBC

Pollution rates around 225 Suffolk schools are below recommended levels, it was revealed on Clean Air Day.

Charity Global Action Plan released data from air quality company EarthSense yesterday which showed 12% of schools in the East of England are impacted by poor pollution levels, with the Ipswich and Colchester postcode areas the worst affected.

A total of 964 education centres in the region including 225 in Suffolk with an IP address and 189 in north Essex with a CO address have levels of the most serious pollutant PM2.5 above the WHO average limit of 10 micrograms/m3. The UK legal limit is 25 micrograms/m3.

Within Ipswich, there are currently five air quality management areas, where nitrogen dioxide levels are monitored because they exceed acceptable levels.

Ipswich Borough Council claims it has introduced a number of initiatives to reduce traffic pollution in hotspots at:

  • Star Lane/Key Street one-way system
  • Chevallier Street/Valley Road/Norwich Road junction
  • Crown Street/St Margarets Street/St Helens Street
  • St Matthews Street/Norwich Road between the Civic Drive roundabout and Bramford Road

Councillor Alasdair Ross, Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for community protection, said: Sixty-three deaths a year in Ipswich and about thirty-six thousand in the UK are linked to air pollution. The biggest cause of poor air quality in our town is traffic-pollution.

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“That’s just two good reasons why it’s vital the council do the work we have done in the community this week to get more people understanding the issue and acting.

"It’s also why we are working every day in not just the areas with the worst air quality, but across Ipswich, to improve air quality."

In the run-up to Clean Air Day yesterday the council ran a number of initiatives including encouraging pupils and teachers at St Pancras Primary School to take a Clean Air Pledge, and a learning event for NHS staff.

But Ipswich Clean Air Network, a collective of individuals, organisations and businesses pushing for change, said more needs to be done. 

"We want them to actively lead a community campaign to raise awareness of what every individual, organisation and group can do to improve air quality and bring it within legal requirements everywhere in the town," Ipswich CAN said. 

"We urge them to encourage the public in a variety of ways, including using their cars less, ensuring they switch off engines outside schools, promoting the use of zero emission cars by providing sufficient charging points, and highlighting the environmental impact of open fires and wood-burning stoves."