Leeds youngsters are being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles at schools and nurseries, a new investigation has revealed.
Analysis of the most recent government data by Greenpeace shows seven of the city’s nurseries are within 150 metres of roads where the level of nitrogen dioxide from diesel traffic exceeds the legal limit of 40µg/m3, (micrograms per cubic metre of air).
This puts Leeds in the top 10 local authority areas outside of London most affected, alongside cities inlcluding Birmingham and Manchester, with Amazing Grace Early Years Childcare on Saxton Lane, Leeds, in the highest pollution pocket of 53.01µg/m3.
Haneen Khreis, a doctorial researcher at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, who has been doing research into early-life exposure to traffic-related air pollution, said: “We know that air pollution models are very optimistic and traffic-related air pollution is generally being underestimated. The numbers of nurseries and children exposed is therefore likely to be much higher in reality.
“Schools and nurseries should really be offset from roads and universal reductions in air pollution, exhaust and non-exhaust is needed quite urgently.”
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for the environment said reducing pollution levels across Leeds was a top priority.
She said: “It’s an issue we will have to tackle as a city as a whole to really make a difference.
"Improving air quality presents a huge challenge for the city, but as a council we are fully committed to tackling this issue and are already working with partners in the city to tackle and combat air pollution head on.
“We are already working with schools more closely to monitor air quality near their sites, but also to raise awareness of pollution and how we can all do our bit to support the city in improving air quality.
“Leeds has been identified as needing to introduce a Clean Air Zone by the end of 2019, and we are currently undertaking detailed analysis and modelling of air quality around the city to see what this might look like. We will be bringing a paper to executive board in the summer months with the results of all the analysis and recommendations moving forward.”
Coun David Blackburn (Farnley and Wortley/Green Party) added: “It’s disturbing to say the least. We have got to do a lot more and get it done quickly. The last people we want to put in this situation is young children.”