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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article14 June 2018London2 min read

Schools join research into the effect of air pollution on children's health

Air pollution is clearly one of the major challenges in London. On the one hand, it is the subject of alarming reports about the damage it causes, on the other hand many recent policy actions are being introduced that aim to tackle the problem. Now, an international research team is starting a study to investigate whether policies such as London's planned Ultra Low Emission Zone are having an impact, not only to improve air quality but also to improve children’s health.

The CHILL study (Children's Health in London & Luton) will monitor the lungs of 3,000 primary school children in London and Luton to evaluate the development of children’s lung growth and chest symptoms over four years. Air pollution from traffic is recognised as having a negative impact on children resulting in the stunted growth of lungs in polluted areas all over the world. Consequences can go as far as children facing the risk of lifelong breathing disorders and even earlier deaths. Now, the CHILL study is the first of its kind to research how policies to mitigate air pollution can help to improve lung growth and the health of children in the long-term.

The background is well known with London being recognised as one of the cities with the worst air pollution in Europe. The initiative to set up the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April 2019 serves as a good opportunity to test how it contributes to improving air quality, children’s lung growth and other related health problems, such as asthma and chest infections, as well as the impacts of better air quality on children exercising outdoors. The study makes use of two sample groups each of 1,500 children aged between six and nine years, one from London inside the Ultra Low Emission Zone and the other from Luton, a town close to London with similar type of population and air quality conditions. Researchers will monitor lungs' size and function on a yearly basis, make use of activity monitoring data and check children’s health records with the permission of their parents. They will carefully monitor air pollution exposure using indicators for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The lead researcher, Professor Chris Griffiths of Queen Mary University of London said that “Low emission zones are being promoted as the best way to tackle traffic pollution and are common across Europe. If ambitious enough they can improve air quality, but we don't know whether they benefit health. This study will tell us whether this type of low emission zone improves children's lung growth and development, and whether they should be implemented in towns and cities in the UK and globally”.

The headteacher at the Netley Primary School in the London Borough of Camden, which is taking part in the study, Mr. Bavaani Nanthabalan said that “Air pollution is a major worry for parents in London. We're delighted to be helping to answer these important questions about children's health and development.”

The research team is looking forward to hopefully identifying the much-needed evidence as to whether air pollution policies, such as the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, are an effective tool to tackle air pollution and improve health conditions. The CHILL study is led by the Queen Mary University of London and unites researchers from six internationally leading research centres. It is funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research.

Story first published by “EurekAlert!” on 8th of June 2018.



Publication date
14 June 2018
  • Policy and research
  • United Kingdom