Primary school installs purifiers in every classroom to protect children from London's toxic air

A school in central London has resorted to usingair purifiers inside all of its classrooms after pollution levels were found to be at a hazardous level.

Christopher Hatton Primary School in Holborn is located close to several major roads and construction sitesleaving children exposed to diesel fumes and dust.

The dust contains harmful PM 2.5 particles that can trigger or worsen respiratory problems such asasthma and bronchitis.

In the school's nursery, levels of the harmful particle reached 546, well above the Air Quality Index's recommended levels of less than 50.

Pollution is often worse inside buildings due to air being less able to circulate, becoming trapped.

Under Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's new pollution protection initiative, the school has been named as one of the 50 most polluted schools in the capital. Pollution was audited and the school was told to installair purifiers to protect the health of children and staff.

Over the summer, air purifiers were placed in every room to try and keep the levels down.

A file image of air pollution over London (PA)

Kim Segel, 50, has two children at the school and lives nearby. She said that the pollution in the area is anxiety inducing.

"We don't want to feel like this is a dangerous place but it is dangerous. Even if you cant see it or smell it or taste it, it is dangerous. It's invisible and in a way if you could feel it or see it on your skin, it would raise the issue even more, but it's invisible and dangerous and I just feel like we're in peril."

Ms Segel has an eight-year-old and 10-year-old at Christopher Hatton Primary and is a member of the association of parents.

Together, the group of parents worked to raise money for the air purifiers before eventually, Blueair a Swedish company donated them.

She said: "We want to be buying glue sticks and writing pens but instead have been thinking about air pollution . We want to buy resources for their learning, we shouldn't have to be buying resources to keep them safe."


Headteacher Gwen Lee (left) pictured with Sarah Alsén , Chief Purpose Officer at Blueair

Sarah Gander, 37, has two children at Christopher Hatton primary with a three-year-old about to start this year. She also lives close to the school and says she has noticed that her children have been affected by the air quality.

"I noticed that my children are continually congested. I can’t say for sure why but I didn’t grow up in London and I don’t remember constantly coughing as a child. I look at my children and it’s very noticeable. They spend a lot of time with snotty noses, coughs and colds. I know kids get coughs and colds, it’s continually persistent but we walk to school and we are a foot away from lorries, buses, trucks, construction sites."

She said that parents became concerned with the air quality due to media reports and that's when as a group, they decided to try and raise the funds to purchase them for every classroom.

"It's a human right and it's a non-avoidable thing, you can do things as parents to make your kids healthier and do your best but you can't really do very much to change the environment they live in unless it's a communal effort."

The school has made sure that teaching its students about the environment is a part of the curriculum. Classes learn about air pollution, plastic pollution and deforestation. One student sent a letter to the Mayor of London about air pollution and received a personalised response.

Headteacher Gwen Lee said: "If we want the children to be architects of change, if we want them to have active voices then we should give them the knowledge and the skills so that they can articulate those views and feel they have a voice and the right to be listened to.

"We need them to understand that adults have made a bit of a mess of the environment and we need their voices to help put it right."

However Ms Lee has already noticed that some parents have decided to take drastic action.

She said: “I love living in London but I am already finding some families are moving out of London because of the impact the air pollution is having.”

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