A new initiative that galvanized over 1,000 young ‘pollution detectives’ from schools across the UK has discovered that the average indoor air quality index (AQI) in classrooms is nearly 46% higher than the average outdoor city-wide AQI.

The study also found that whilst children know that air pollution is bad, they do not know what to do about it. After participating in the ‘Actions to Breathe Cleaner’ (ABC) initiative which consisted of both in-classroom education and air pollution monitoring, the pupil’s knowledge of air pollution and how they might reduce their exposure to it, increased by 54%.

The launch of this initiative and the results of the air pollution data collected are particularly relevant today on World Health Day themed ‘Our planet, Our health’ where we are being encouraged to share stories about the steps we are all taking to protect our health and that of the planet.

The ‘Actions to Breathe Cleaner’ initiative from Otrivine Natural helps to educate primary school children about the quality of the air they breathe and actions to help them breathe cleaner.

The initiative was inspired by the WHO’s categorisation of air pollution as the world's largest environmental health threat, with 93% of children around the world breathing polluted air every day.

With some of the highest rates of childhood asthma among all European countries , it was important to start the ABC initiative in the UK. Developed in partnership with teachers, school children were able to analyse the air quality inside and outside their schools over a two-week period through detective-like-search using digital pollution monitors.

Sarah McDonald, GSK VP of Sustainability commented, “We want to inspire people to take action against the health impact of air pollution because children contribute the least to it but are some of the most vulnerable to its effects . One of the first steps is to be aware of your personal exposure and then learn the actions you can take to breathe cleaner.”

The study took place in schools located in UK cities, towns and villages and revealed that the indoor air pollution of village schools is no better than that of city schools. In some cases, levels exceeded the 1-hour exposure threshold set by the WHO, meaning high air pollution that could cause one to experience adverse health effects.

Sarah continued, “We discovered that indoor air quality can be worse than outdoors and therefore, as part of Actions to Breathe Cleaner, we recommend daily ventilation of classrooms, at times when outside traffic is at its lowest. Also, let’s not forget that our noses are our first line of defense, so another action is to wash your nose daily.”

26 schools across the UK embarked on the study, which included monitoring the air for 15 minutes in a stationary position outside the school, during a 15–30-minute walk outside and for 15 minutes inside the classroom after each walk. In addition, the monitors were left on inside the classrooms, when not in use, to help understand the daily pollution rhythms inside the classrooms.

Whilst astounding, the results are in line with previous studies from Cambridge and Indiana Universities that show higher rates of indoor air pollution are not restricted to schools but apply to all indoor spaces including homes and offices.

See how two schools got on here

A further 4,000 children were involved in the initiative through a bespoke educational programme that consisted of extensive classroom learning.

Sarah concluded, “The ABC initiative has helped educate over 5,000 children on air pollution and how it is affecting them personally on a daily basis. Children spend a significant amount of time at school, and our research shows they may be exposed to air pollutants that could have a detrimental impact on health.

“No action is too small to reduce air pollution. By taking simple small ‘Actions to Breathe Cleaner’ such as nasal washing with saline solution like Otrivine Natural Daily Nasal Wash, ventilating rooms and adapting the route to school, we can breathe better, now.”

The ABC initiative data also revealed:

•             59% of schools had an indoor AQI significantly above the city outdoor averages

•             Town and village school indoor pollution was driven by PM10*, and city schools a relatively even mix of VOCs* and PM10

•             Air pollution levels varied notably day by day, highlighting the need to monitor daily air pollution levels

•             A third of schools also had an outdoor AQI over the city average

What the teachers & students thought:

Participating in ‘Actions to Breathe Cleaner’ not only helped educate but also inspired longer term behaviour change.

•             35% increase in teachers’ belief that their pupils are taking action to reduce exposure to air pollution

•             83% increase in pupils’ knowledge of the role of personal hygiene, such as nasal washing, in reducing their exposure to air pollution.

Ealing Times:

Since taking part in the ABC initiative, many schools have reported that they are putting additional actions into practice, such as adding more plants and building a ‘living’ green wall, to help mitigate the health impact of air pollution.

What you can do: 11 actions you can try to breathe cleaner today

PLAN YOUR TRAVEL

•             Choose low air polluted routes

•             Shift from motorised to active transport (cycling, walking)

•             Optimise driving style, reduce idling

•             Use public transportation, electric cars   

TRACK YOUR AIR QUALITY

•             Your air quality is personal to you

•             Monitor and understand air pollution data at your street level, in your home, at your children’s school

PURIFY THE AIR AT HOME, SCHOOL & WORK

•             Improve ventilation in your home, especially cooking areas

•             Grow plants

•             Vacuum and dust regularly

•             Use air purifiers

CLEAN YOUR NOSE

•             Our nose helps to naturally filter out the environment around us. Daily cleaning of your nose with saline washes such as Otrivine Natural Daily Nasal Wash can restore its effectiveness in filtering harmful particles

To learn more about the simple daily actions you and your children can take to breathe cleaner, visit https://youtu.be/x9_B4UFoGq