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Schoolkids become Clean Air Experts and create iconic walking map

Pupils in Stoke Newington have teamed up with popular children’s illustrator Al Murphy to create a map of low-pollution walking routes.

The map, which highlights the area’s most polluted streets and suggests alternative cleaner routes, was put together by Year 4 children at William Patten Primary School. It’s being distributed via schools and nurseries to thousands of children in the area.

The children used personal exposure monitors to measure the amount of black carbon present on different routes to schools, nurseries and popular places like the library, leisure centre and parks. Then, working with air quality experts and Kings College London’s Annual Air Pollution Map, they plotted less polluted routes. Talented designer Matt Appleton of Modern Activity helped pull the map together, even creating a font for the artwork and website from the children's writing.

Lucy Harbor, an air quality expert who spearheaded the project, said: “Choosing backstreets instead of main roads can reduce your pollution exposure from that journey by as much as 50%, and it won’t take you much longer!

“Al Murphy is a brilliant illustrator – best known for his book Kitchen Disco. Most of the children know his work well and they were thrilled to be working with him. Together they’ve created a really iconic and useful map of the area.”

Al said: “I wish I could’ve squeezed all the kids’ illustrations onto the map because they were all amazing. Funny, clever, bright and way better than I could’ve come up with, I loved each one and am thoroughly intimidated by my future competition!”

Large scale copies of the map and extra tips for reducing pollution exposure have been put on the gates of William Patten, which was recently dubbed one of London’s most polluted schools by the GLA. It is also hoped tat they will act as a barrier against some of the pollution from the road and a nearby bus stop.

Tom Knowles, an air quality expert who also helped run the project, added: “Children are shorter so they’re closer to the exhaust tailpipes and breathe in even more pollution than adults. High levels of pollution, as found on Stoke Newington Church Street and the High Street, can stunt child lung growth and increase the risk of life-threatening respiratory illness.”

A recent study by Unicef and Queen Mary University found children in London are exposed to 60% of their daily air pollution during the school run and while at school – even though they spend more time at home.

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