On Tuesday 18 June, as part of Lambeth Clean Air Week, saw the unveiling of a ‘green screen’ alongside the playground of Corpus Christi primary school to shield children from traffic pollution. Formed of Hedera ivy, this is the second installed in the borough, following in the footsteps of St Helen’s Primary School in Brixton that also faces a heavily polluted road. Three more are planned within the next year as part of the council’s efforts to tackling poor air quality.
Cllr Claire Holland, Lambeth Council cabinet member for Environment & Clean Air, said: “We are serious about improving the quality of our air and protecting our most vulnerable residents from the effects of polluted air. These green screens act as a shield for these young people, who are among the most susceptible to the health problems poor air quality brings. I’m delighted we’ve managed to get another green screen up in Lambeth Clean Air Week. I’ll be working hard to ensure green screens are installed at all of our most at-risk schools, those alongside main roads where most of the pollution comes from.”
Co-Headteacher at Corpus Christi, Robert Coyle, said: “The Corpus Christi School Community is very pleased to have had a green wall installed during Lambeth Clean Air Week. This will significantly reduce pollution and help suppress dust particles as well as improving the daily play environment for our young children.”
Campaign group Mums for Lungs said: “we are inspired by the parents at Corpus Christi, who have done so much from lobbying to fundraising to put up a green screen to mitigate the exposure of pupils to toxic air. But mitigating exposure is only one step, reducing traffic immediately is critical. We will, therefore, continue our campaign to encourage Lambeth Council to implement School Streets, where roads are closed to through traffic at least during drop off and pick up times around schools. Councils in Croydon, Camden, and Hackney are already doing it!”
A Greater London Authority report identified 32 schools in Lambeth where pupils are exposed to high levels of NO2 pollution which can particularly damage children’s lung development as well as causing asthma. Particulates (mainly caused by diesel engines) are highly carcinogenic with the WHO placing them in the same class as tobacco. There is some evidence that green screens can reduce levels of both NO2 and particulate pollution in a playground alongside a road by as much as 25% compared to an open fence.