SCHOOLCHILDREN are calling on Tameside’s drivers to help tackle deadly air pollution by turning their car engines off at the school gates.
Pupils and teachers at Stalybridge’s Gorse Hall Primary and Nursery School are helping raise awareness of the health dangers of keeping the engine running when parked up, which is a particular problem on the school run.
They’ve joined Tameside Council in supporting Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) campaign to tackle some of the common myths about leaving vehicle engines ticking over.
The youngsters held up signs saying “engine off when you stop” to drive home the message. The roadside signs will be placed around the borough.
A recent study revealed that switching off the engine when at a standstill could help reduce air pollution during peak travel hours by as much as 30 percent.
Harmful fumes pumped out don’t just affect people outside the vehicle – drivers and their passengers are exposed as well.
One misconception is that it’s a waste of fuel to restart the engine. But leaving it running wastes more fuel – every two minutes ticking over is the fuel equivalent of driving a mile.
The campaign also calls on people to walk or cycle where possible, use public transport, car share and to consider upgrading to a hybrid or electric vehicle when looking for a new car.
The eco-friendly school is already an advocate for tackling air pollution after taking part in National Clean Air Day last summer.
Pupils made a video about its causes and what families can do to protect themselves and the environment — and were named runners-up in a competition run by TfGM.
Headteacher Alexandra Flood said: “Our school has done much to raise awareness of the dangers poor air quality can have on our health.
“And we’ve asked children, parents and staff to pledge to take action to reduce air pollution. These changes can be as simple as switching off the car engine during the school drop off, walking to school and avoiding busy roads, or travelling by bus or train.”
Tameside Council’s Public Health Annual Report, which can be read at www.tameside.gov.uk/publichealthreports, describes how air quality is a re-emerging 21st century public health threat. It aims to raise awareness of the risks of traffic-related air pollution and identify what individuals and organisations in Tameside can do to limit their contribution and exposure.
Tameside Council Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “This is a tremendous initiative from Stalybridge’s Gorse Hall Primary and Nursery School and it is something that we should encourage all schools across Tameside to do. Air pollution is a real health danger that affects us all – but we can all take simple actions to help reduce it.
“Leaving your engine running is something we’ve all done but by not leaving it ticking over we’ll reduce harmful traffic fumes and improve air quality, particularly around school gates to protect children’s health.”
Vehicle exhausts can produce harmful gases – and tiny particles of soot and other matter – that pollute the air and are linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer.
It’s estimated that air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of up to 2,000 people in Greater Manchester each year.
GM Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Air pollution is an invisible menace and one which our young people are particularly vulnerable to. That’s why I’m calling on those of us who make the school run to switch their engines off when parked near the school gates. It makes financial sense, environmental sense and good health sense to switch off.”
Greater Manchester’s lead for environmental issues and climate change, Councillor Alex Ganotis, added: “Switching off engines at the school gates will not only help to protect our young people but lead to real improvements in air quality in our region.”
The region has been in breach of its legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, one of the most harmful pollutants, every year since 2011.
But air quality is improving as TfGM, local councils like Tameside and other partners are busy implementing the policies and measures in Greater Manchester’s Low Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan.