Air Pollution


Schools support our campaign to stop toxic idling

Tue 10 Aug 2021
Laura Fogg-Rogers

Schools support campaign to stop toxic idling

Local schools are encouraging parents and nearby drivers to turn off their engines while waiting. 

The no idling campaign is being run by Winterbourne and Frome Valley Environmental Group, who have funded new banners outside primary schools. 

Hambrook and St Michael's Primary Schools are currently showcasing the campaign, and other local schools will join in after Christmas. 

It's as simple as turning your key - switching off your engine saves you money and protects young children from air pollution! 

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health, responsible for over 4 million deaths each year internationally, killing more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and road incidents combined. 

While most of these deaths occur in developing countries, it is still a major health risk in the UK, with around 40,000 annual deaths associated with air pollution, according to the Royal College of Physicians. Research is only now revealing further serious health and developmental impacts that were previously not understood. 

Recent studies from Kings College revealed that in Bristol, five people die each week as a result of high levels of air pollution. 

In the villages of the Frome Valley, the main sources of air pollution are domestic wood burning and road traffic and of the easiest ways to reduce local air pollution is to stop engine idling. 

Engine idling is when a vehicle's engine is left running while stationary. This can be while in traffic, while parked and waiting outside the shops or school. 

Many people don't realise that it is in fact an offence. Leaving an engine idling is an offence under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The act enforces rule 123 of the Highway Code, which states "You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road" 

The law exists because leaving a stationary vehicle idling creates more concentrated localised pollution near the vehicle and can be easily avoided. Some 420 litres of exhaust fumes are released per minute for a family size car. 

Diesel cars typically emit a more dangerous combination of fumes than petrol, but both can quickly raise pollution levels in a street to dangerous levels. 

Schools at drop off and pick up times and community spaces with shops are the key problem areas. 

These are places where families are found, with children among the most vulnerable to exhaust fumes. Recent studies found small particulates from vehicle exhausts in every organ of the body, including the brain, with links to cognitive problems and long term issues such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. 

We should care a great deal that pollution from our cars is having a direct impact on the development and function of young minds. 

These emissions cause significant physical, often permanent damage and we are poisoning our children at the school gates.

We should also be concerned about the long term health impacts and the additional burden and cost to the NHS of treating chronic conditions, that we could easily avoid. 

The UN's human rights body has voted overwhelmingly to recognise the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right. Clean air should be a fundamental right that we can all help to achieve. 

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where many people rely on a car that runs on fossil fuels, but this situation is not a foregone conclusion. One of the simplest actions we can take is as easy as turning a key.

We can all play a part in making our schools and in making our schools and community areas safe and healthy. 

If your vehicle is going to be stationary for more than 10 seconds, you should switch off your engine. Stopping and starting a modern car will use less fuel than idling for 10 seconds. 

You will also benefit from reduced fuel costs. Excessive idling can result in partial combustion due to lower temperatures, causing residue to build up on cylinder walls affecting spark plugs and exhaust systems. Your engine's components will last longer if you switch off. 

If you need to drive to school, park a few minutes walk away from the school gates to park and stride. This will reduce the concentration of traffic at the school gates, reducing the amount of poisonous fumes breathed by every child arriving or leaving. The additional exercise is also good for learning, especially if they can enjoy clean air while doing so. 

Speak to others about the impacts of air pollution and idling. Many people are completely unaware of the damage they are causing and that they are committing an offence. 

Winterbourne and Frome Valley Environmental Group have created banners to remind people of the risks. They are currently displayed outside St Michael's in Winterbourne and Hambrook School. 

Ask your schools to request "school streets" to restrict traffic at drop off times. These will cause inconvenience to some, but will provide a safe space where children can enter and leave the places we provide for them to learn without filling their lungs with poisonous fumes. 

Join the fightback to make our communities a healthy and happier place to live.