A recent investigation into the air quality outside schools in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, reveals concerning levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM1). The study found that while some schools' NO2 levels exceed EU/UK limits, many more surpass the stricter WHO 2021 guidelines. This poses significant health risks to children, including respiratory diseases and decreased lung function.

Study Overview

"Air Quality Outside Schools in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: An Investigation into NO2 and PM Concentrations and PM Respiratory Deposition" Lead Author, Wisam Mohammad.

The AQ Mesh, small sensor air quality monitroring system was used to monitor and collect data from several locations.The study investigates the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM1) outside 12 schools in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, over the period 2018-2019. The focus is on assessing whether the air quality around these schools meets the EU/UK regulations and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and examining the respiratory deposition doses (RDDs) of PM that children are exposed to.

Key Findings

  • NO2 Levels: The annual average concentrations of NO2 ranged from 23.7 to 39.2 µg/m³. One school's average exceeded the EU/UK annual limit of 40 µg/m³.
  • PM Levels: The annual averages for PM10 ranged from 7.4 to 22.2 µg/m³, for PM2.5 from 3.5 to 11.6 µg/m³, and for PM1 from 1.7 to 9.0 µg/m³. Several instances of short-term exposure (24-hour) exceeded both the EU/UK and WHO limits.
  • WHO 2021 Guidelines: When compared to the stricter WHO 2021 guidelines, all schools exceeded the NO2 annual average guideline of 10 µg/m³, two schools exceeded the PM10 annual average guideline of 15 µg/m³, and ten schools exceeded the PM2.5 annual average guideline of 5 µg/m³.
  • Respiratory Deposition Doses (RDDs): The highest PM RDD that children were exposed to at school was 30 µg/h, which poses a significant health risk.

Health Implications

The study highlights that the levels of NO2 and PM around schools often exceed both current regulations and new, stricter WHO guidelines. Children, being particularly vulnerable to air pollution due to their developing respiratory systems and higher rates of respiration, face increased risks of respiratory diseases, decreased lung function, and other health problems.


Policy and Interventions: The study calls for evidence-based policies to improve air quality around schools. It suggests that stricter enforcement of air quality regulations and measures to reduce emissions from traffic and other sources near schools are necessary.

Public Awareness: Increasing awareness among parents, teachers, and policymakers about the importance of air quality and its impact on children's health is crucial.

The study underscores the importance of continuous monitoring and proactive measures to ensure that air quality standards are met to safeguard children's health.

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