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Poor Air Quality is Holding Students Back: What Can We Do?

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Over 300 million children breathe toxic air in conditions that surpass international limits six-fold. We understand the risk that air pollution poses on children’s health, but does it affect their learning capabilities?

Air quality has long been linked to productivity, having a huge impact on both cognitive and physical performance. But the majority of reporting on this issue focuses on adult productivity levels. But as air pollution affects children so heavily, more and more researchers are studying the link between the effects of air pollution on children’s learning and development.

Why Are Children More Susceptible to Air Pollution?

A child’s airway lining is not only more permeable but also smaller. This, combined with the fact that children breathe twice as fast (ingesting a larger amount of air proportion to their body weight), may be deadly if they develop infections.

Childhood is a period of immense growth. New cells that form each day could be thwarted from good development as a result of air pollution and when these cells multiply, the problem exacerbates. Chronic illness may easily arise from this, unavoidably impacting their quality of life now and in the future.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Children’s Learning?

There is mounting evidence to suggest that the effects of air pollution on children’s health is impacting their studies. At a time when learning is so crucial to development, air pollution could be the hindrance that holds children back from achieving their best.

Some studies include:

  • Researchers found that test scores decline when students take tests on days when the air pollution is high.

  • Another study found that there were correlations between a school with increased levels of air pollution from being downwind to a motorway to lower test scores and higher absences.

  • An economist at a London university collected particulate matter in exam rooms and found that students performed worse in exam rooms that had higher levels of air pollution.

  • Researchers in London found that indoor air quality in classrooms was worse than outdoor air quality.

Students spend half of their day indoors. They and their guardians should be able to trust that they’re not being exposed to harmful pollutants while in a seemingly safe environment. However, the evidence suggests otherwise, and is causing their development to suffer.

While reduction in outdoor air pollutants is needed to keep children safe, it seems there should also be equal focus on indoor exposure and how this can be reduced.

Looking to The Future

The effect of air pollution on people’s health costs the global economy billions each year. If children are being impacted from such a young age, this cost is only set to increase.

What’s more, the economy needs sharp minds to grow. If air pollution is affecting the academic performance of children and young adults, this could likely have a knock-on effect on the economy. Considering, too, that air pollution effects low-income families more greatly, creating even more disparities in the education and class system.

Creating Classrooms With Clean Air

“Protecting children from air pollution requires actions to reduce air pollution, reduce children’s exposure to it and better monitor it.”

- Unicef

Children deserve to live in a world where the air they’re breathing won’t affect their health or their future selves. Action is needed now to give today’s children the best environment to become the best they can be.

So, what are the solutions?

From poor and dusty ventilation systems to mould build-up, many schools around the country are in need of TLC. But upgrading ageing schools is costly, with projects ranging from £300-£500k.

A cost-effective way to reduce indoor air pollution in schools is plug-in air purification systems like Pure Air Zone. Becoming a Pure Air School involves installing U-Earth’s suite of nature-based air purifiers and monitors that continuously detect and destroy air pollutants such as PM and VOCs as well as aerosol particles, including airborne viruses and bacteria that can cause colds, flus and sickness.

Kinder Haus-Kinder College Bologna became a Pure Air Zone, capturing and digesting up to 80kg of air contaminants per day, contributing to enhancing the air quality of the surrounding area.

  • Reduce school absences

  • Increase children’s productivity and learning experience

  • Help them improve their test scores so they can flourish in safe conditions

Through this solution, parents and teachers can live safely in the knowledge that their children are growing up in a better, cleaner world.

If you’d like to know more about how your school can become a Pure Air Zone, book a call with one of our air quality experts. These informal meetings are a chance for us to learn more about your situation and your pain points and discuss how our solutions could help.



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