Why you should #DropOffSwitchOff at the school gates

Juliet talks about our campaign to protect children from toxic vehicle exhaust.

You probably already know that air pollution is bad for your health. It affects everyone, whatever their age and whoever they are.

An estimated 29,000 people every year in the UK die from air pollution. But did you know that children growing up around severe air pollution are 5 times more likely to have poor lung development? And did you know that children can be inadvertently exposed to this air pollution at the school gates?

As children across England and Wales prepare to go back to school next week, and with Scottish children already in class, we want to protect their little lungs.

That’s why we’re campaigning to encourage parents to ‘#DropOffSwitchOff’. We're asking them to switch off their engines when they drop their child off at school or are waiting to pick them up.

Dangerous pollutants

Exhaust emissions from cars contain dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

On a day-to-day basis, high concentrations of air pollution can irritate your throat and lungs, leading to respiratory problems - even in otherwise healthy children.

Long-term exposure has been linked to worsening symptoms of conditions such as asthma, which is common in children. Diesel emissions have even been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.

And research has also shown that pollution levels increase at lower heights, potentially exposing children to greater concentrations than adults.

Idling in cars, which means keeping the engine running while stationary when waiting to drop off or pick up your child from school, increases the amount of this toxic vehicle exhaust in the air.

Many parents believe that stopping a car engine, only to restart it a minute or two later, causes more pollution than idling. This is a myth.

What isn’t a myth is the damage air pollution from idling cars can do to our most vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important to switch off your car engine around schools.

Active travel

If you can, it’s even better to try ditching the car in favour of ‘active travel’ such as walking or cycling instead. 

1 in 5 journeys under a mile are still made by car. Taking modes of active travel will not only clear the roads and air – it’s also good for your health.

No one should be forced to inhale dirty air, especially not those in our society who contribute least to its creation. Children at school should be absorbing knowledge, not carcinogenic chemicals.

So when you drop off or collect your child next week, and every day for the rest of the school year, please turn that key, switch off that engine and help clean up the air our children breathe.

You can join the conversation by tweeting #DropOffSwitchOff and following @lunguk on Twitter.


A major issue in Bolton Lanachire and more than likely in other toes is the issue with buses Not switching off in. Crowded areas, schools , bus stations etc, also a major issue the ice cream cart that. Needs to keep the engine running to generate power to produce mt Whippy type ice cream, parked outside of school, sports events food fayres and other public gatherings these are a major contributor to local air pollution in Bolton,
Despite Bolton being one of the worst polluted towns in the Country My Member of Parliament for Bolton South East and my newly elected Councillor for Harper Green have ignored my request to use legislation in the town to ensure buses, taxis, and ice cream  vans switch off when parked up. Any idea how we can sort, I have encouraged friends and family not to vote  for these people.

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27 August 2015