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Schools engage in Saffron Walden Clean Air Project

Students conduct town-wide air quality experiment and are stunned by findings

Uttlesford District Council has been working in partnership with consultancies MP Smarter Travel and Global Action Plan as part of its Saffron Walden Clean Air Project, a town-wide initiative to raise awareness of air pollution.

Since September, students from Saffron Walden's schools have been conducting their own investigations into their personal exposure to air pollution - an initiative called Air Aware. Each week, hand-held electronic air quality monitors are being passed from family to family to record the pollution levels at home, on the school run and on trips across town.

The hope is that a more detailed understanding of people's own exposure to air pollution will encourage more walking and cycling to school, reducing car use and helping to protect children.

The Air Aware initiative has proved hugely popular, with almost 200 families across Saffron Walden signed up to take part. Families have been recording their pollution levels in Air Aware Diaries, noting pollution levels, what they were doing at the time and how it made them feel.

They are consistently finding elevated levels of pollution on main roads and around school drop-off times, as well as high levels of pollution inside cars - in some cases up to 12 times higher than outside. Monitors are also being used to raise awareness of air pollution inside the home.

Cllr Neil Reeve, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change, said: "We're delighted that so many young students and their families are engaging with the Air Aware initiative - it shows just how important this topic is to local people. Some of their findings are extraordinary and also concerning.

"We need to reduce air pollution and we must continue to encourage people to walk and cycle for their trips, whether it's the school run, commute or just heading into town."

Schools are receiving ongoing support to facilitate more walking and cycling, including free cycle training through Essex County Council, banners and events that discourage idling, and leaflets and assemblies to educate students on the sources and impacts of air pollution.

If your child attends a Saffron Walden school, you can join the Air Aware waiting list by completing the permission form:

Residents can find out more about the Saffron Walden Clean Air Project, including other upcoming initiatives, at:

4 December 2023