Thousands of children in South East England go to school near air pollution hot spots

Thousands of children in the South East of England go to school near polluted roads, which could have a serious impact on their health, according to a report published today. [1]

The report by Keith Taylor, the Green Party MEP for South East England, shows that approximately 27,920 children of primary school age in South East England are attending schools within a 150m radius of heavy traffic points. Many thousands more go to school within 450m of the region’s busiest roads. The report, which covers West Berkshire, East Sussex, West Sussex, Oxfordshire, Bracknell and Kent local authorities, is released just days after the region was hit by a serious smog episode.

The report compiles information from Freedom of Information requests sent to councils across South East England.

Road traffic is the biggest source of air pollution in the UK. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Particulate Matter (PM) and Ground Level Ozone (O3) are the pollutants which are particularly dangerous for human health, causing both respiratory and heart problems. [2]

Children and the elderly are most at risk from high levels of air pollution. Research has shown that living near heavy traffic points (roads where 10,000 or more cars pass daily) can be attributed to 15-30% of new asthma cases in children as well as affecting the development of lung capacity. [3] Short term exposure to air pollution can result in irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, as well as bronchitis and pneumonia. In the long term, air pollution can result in lung diseases, cancer, nerve, kidney, liver and brain damage, as well as heart attacks.

Breakdown of Schools with DfT road links (10,000+ vehicles per day) within 150m


Primary, Nursery and Special Schools

Secondary Schools, Colleges and Sixth Forms


No. of Schools No. of Pupils(approx.) No. of Schools No. of Pupils(approx.)

No. of Schools

No. of Pupils


West Berkshire 11 3126 2 2746 13 5872
East Sussex 35 8047 2 1922 37 9969
West Sussex 15 4076 4 879 19 4955
Oxfordshire 42 8877 7 6430 49 15307
Bracknell 3 725 1 1440 4 2165
Kent 7 3069 5 4141 12 7210
Total 113 27920 21 17558 134 45478

Keith Taylor, who produced the ‘Polluted Playgrounds’ report, said:

“This report makes clear just how many children in South East England are going to school near busy roads that are likely to be very polluted.

We know that air pollution is a serious threat to children’s health, and we know that thousands of people die every year because of the effects of air pollution.

It’s abundantly clear that action on air pollution is needed. Many of our towns and cities need to radically rethink the way they are dealing with air pollution. To protect people’s health we need local authorities need to be bold in tackling air pollution.

It’s time for air pollution to become a political issue. I’d encourage people who are worried about the toxic air we breathe to get in touch with local politicians and make sure that they are taking action on this invisible killer. We can clean up our air, but we need to force politicians to take the issue seriously.

We need clean public transport options, plus a huge improvement in the numbers of people cycling and walking.

 With the EU Commission threatening to the fine this county we also need the UK Government to take this problem seriously and invest in local schemes that will cut air pollution.”


For interviews/further information please contact Matthew Butcher (Media Officer for Keith Taylor MEP) on 0207 250 8418 or 07940 500633 or email

For high quality (non copyright) photographs of Keith Taylor MEP please feel free to use any from his Flickr page:

1) Polluted Playgrounds, a report by Keith Taylor MEP:

A detailed breakdown of the number of schools and children in each county is available on request.

2) The causes of air pollution:

3) Scientific research published recently by the Aphekom group of scientists has shown that those living near roads travelled by 10,000 or more vehicles per day on average could be responsible for some 15-30 per cent of all new cases of asthma in children; and of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and CHD (coronary heart disease) in adults 65 years of age and older.  The same study further estimated that, on average for all 10 cities studied, 15-30 per cent of exacerbations of asthma in children, acute worsening of COPD and acute CHD problems are attributable to air pollution.