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Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels outside primary and secondary schools in Islington have improved over the last two years, recent research suggests.

Islington Council started monitoring air quality around schools in 2018, and its findings reveal a significant improvement on the modelled figures put forward for 2016.

Levels of NO2 in 2018 were found to average 33 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3), whereas the data predicted two years earlier came in at 43µg/m3 – a breach of the legal limit of 40µg/m3.

While these results indicate a marked reduction in NO2 pollution, the research is only in its initial stages; owing to variables such as changes in weather patterns, a single year’s data must be compared to figures collected over a number of years on order for clear trends to be established.

Islington council is the first UK local authority to collect and publish air quality data from all its schools, one of multiple measures it has taken to protect young residents from NO2 exposure.

Thirteen School Streets, for example, have been established – where roads outside school gates are closed during drop-off and pick up to reduce pollution – and this year, the budget has allowed for up to 30 schools to run the scheme by the end of 2020.

Yet while the council's research suggests anti-pollution initiatives are making an impact, not all the data collected was positive. Three schools in the borough were found to have exceeded the legal NO2 limit – Whitehall Park School recorded the highest average of 42µg/m3 – while three others were at the upper most limit, of 40µg/m3.

Councillor Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport, said of the data: “Air pollution is the biggest health emergency facing Islington residents, with more than two million Londoners living in areas that exceed legal limits for NO2, including more than 400,000 children.

“That is why we’re committed to bold action to improve air quality around schools.We know children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of air pollution and so we are determined to continue to be at the forefront of the fight against it.”

She added: “More action is needed to tackle air pollution in Islington and that is why we are committed to rolling out Britain’s biggest programme of School Streets to make the school gate a healthier, safer place for all.”

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