Hundreds of London schools exceed legal air quality levels

01 July 2016

New figures released today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, reveal the full extent of the city’s air quality crisis with 443 schools across the capital exceeding legal air pollution limits.

The statistics show the full scale of the ongoing crisis facing the capital with the Mayor releasing details of the 100 primary and secondary schools in London which register the highest levels of pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). 

Last month, after discovering Boris Johnson had failed to inform Londoners how deprived schools in the capital were disproportionately affected by toxic air, the Mayor of London asked City Hall officials for an urgent update of the figures in order to understand the dire state of pollution in the capital.

Worryingly, the up-to-date analysis shows that on top of the hundreds of primary schools exceeding NO2 levels, there is now data revealing pollution levels around 86 secondary schools were also above legal levels, putting young Londoners at risk of breathing the city’s toxic air.

Southwark, Westminster and Tower Hamlets were the three boroughs with the most number of primary and secondary schools in high pollution areas.

The latest medical research shows the equivalent of nearly 10,000 Londoners die every year because of London’s toxic air and the Mayor believes there is a need for more urgent action to decrease pollution levels at a much quicker rate.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These figures are of great concern and show why it is absolutely right we act now on London’s polluted air. It is simply not acceptable that young Londoners – our children, grandchildren, family, neighbours and friends – are being exposed to dangerously polluted air and putting them at greater risk of respiratory and other conditions.

“This is yet more evidence that the last Mayor failed Londoners when it comes to improving air quality in the capital. I have been clear that I will not stand by and continue to let that happen and that is why I am more determined than ever to get to grips with tackling the capital’s toxic air pollution and delivering on a promise of cleaner air for all Londoners.”

As part of broader efforts to promote active travel and improve road safety, the Mayor has asked City Hall and Transport for London officials to urgently develop a programme promoting cleaner air walking routes to school with the aim of encouraging young people to exercise and helping to reduce pollution. He is also working with TfL to develop a campaign that will see Londoners kept more informed about the state of the capital’s air. Proposals being considered include roadside signs on the most polluted roads to alert Londoners when the air is dangerously bad, promoting the use of the free airTEXT service and a more effective use of social media and traditional media. Details of this campaign are to be announced shortly.

Sadiq Khan is to deliver a major speech next week when he launches a formal public consultation on a package of measures to tackle air pollution in London, which includes extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and implementing an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles entering the capital. 

In a further bid to tackle air quality in the capital, the Mayor has also joined a High Court challenge of the Government’s air pollution plans as an Interested Party. Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are suing the Government for the second time in a year, having won a case at the Supreme Court in 2015 which ordered ministers to fulfil their legal duty to cut pollution in “the shortest time possible”.

The new case argues the government is still failing to do this. Sadiq Khan has now set out his view that London can meet the legal standards for NO2 well before 2025, which is the date the Government’s Air Quality Action Plan projects London will be compliant.

Notes to editors

Please see attached a table and a map of the top 100 primary and top 100 secondary schools with the highest concentrations of NO2.

The data is an updated Aether report from 2013 and shows there were 357 primary and 86 secondary schools in London that exceeded legal levels of NO2.