Greenwich is the southeast London borough with the most nurseries, schools, and colleges in areas where one measure of air pollution exceeds recommended limits, according to new research.

Data published by the British Lung Foundation suggests all boroughs in southeast London have more than 100 nurseries, schools and colleges in areas where levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are above the World Health Organisation-recommended limit.

Greenwich tops the the table with 131 educational establishments in areas reported to exceed the recommended PM2.5 limit.

It is followed by Bromley, with 108 – closely grouped with Lewisham at 106, and Bexley at 101.

Outside the London Metropolitan Area – Dartford predictably comes in much lower at 48 nuseries, schools, and colleges in areas above the recommended limit.

PM2.5 is the most harmful type of air pollution for human health and particularly affects children and people with lung conditions such as asthma, says the BLF.

It can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the blood, increase heart diseases and lung cancer, and leads to thousands of early deaths a year.

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Traffic fumes are a major source of the pollutant, which can also be produced through industrial emissions and wood burners.

The WHO says concentrations of PM2.5 should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre on average in the year – half the current legal limit in the UK of 20 micrograms.

The research used government data collected in 2019, which provides estimates of PM2.5 for small areas across the country.

Across London, 3,701 nurseries, schools and colleges were identified as being in areas where WHO-recommended limits were breached.

These accounted for 43% of more than 8,500 nationally that were deemed to be in highly polluted areas.

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The BLF is urging the Government to produce a national health protection plan for England to be overseen by a new air quality minister, and stronger air quality laws in line with the WHO limits.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 with emissions of fine particulate matter falling by 9% and emissions of nitrogen oxides at their lowest level since records began. However, we know there is more to do.

“Our landmark Environment Bill will set at least two ambitious legally-binding air quality targets, with a primary focus on reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution.

“As part of this, we will consider the World Health Organization’s guidelines for PM2.5.”