Colchester school children request the right to breathe clean air

PUBLISHED: 15 June 2021

Today, on national Clean Air Day, pupils from St James’ Primary School in Colchester have published an open letter to their parents, relatives and other carers setting out why clean air is important for young lungs. They are urging adults to adopt better driving habits by switching off the car engine while stationary outside their school, to stop children having to breath polluted air.

St James’ pupils are wanting adults to take action to reduce the risks to children’s health in support of the town-wide CAReless Pollution campaign. Air pollution is associated with asthma and other lung diseases, and young developing lungs are especially in danger of being damaged. Breathing bad air can also cause heart problems and stroke and it is linked to 1 in 20 deaths in Colchester (1). Breathing in air pollution is the equivalent of a child smoking 1.5 cigarettes a day (2).

CAReless Pollution is focusing on asking drivers to switch off their car engines when stationary because research from the University of Surrey has found that pollution inside a stationary car with the engine running can be up to seven times higher than the air pollution outside the car (3).

Today, a CAReless Pollution Zorb-ball is on display at the school to help highlight the poor quality air that children have to breath when they are sat inside a stationary car with the engine running. The Zorb-ball will then be visiting other events this summer. 

St James’ Primary School, along with other schools across Colchester, has received the new CAReless Pollution online toolkit which provides teachers with a range of age-appropriate activities and ideas for inspiring pupils.

A pupil at St James’ School said: “We have been learning about air pollution at school and how bad air can come inside the car. I don’t want to breathe that in on my way to and from school so I will be asking my mum to switch off the engine when we are not moving.”

Cllr Simon Crow, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability, said: “We are really keen to inspire students to understand the health consequences of air pollution and to take positive action to improve local air for themselves and other Colchester residents.

The main source of Colchester’s air pollution is exhaust fumes. Switching your engine off while stationary can cut air pollution by up to 30%.”

CAReless Pollution materials including the Toolkit for Schools are available to download from:  



  1. Public Health England, 2014
  2. Concentration dynamics of coarse and fine particulate matter at and around signalised traffic intersections, Kumar P. & Goel A., University of Surrey, 2016
  3. St George Breathing Better Action Group, Bristol, 2021

Page last reviewed: 15 June 2021


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