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Parents urged to turn off car engines at school to cut risk of toxic fumes

Parents are being urged to switch off their car engines outside schools to cut the health risk of toxic fumes.

The anti-pollution campaign 'Engine Off-Prevent the Cough’ is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

A study by Unicef UK showed a child’s exposure to pollution is much higher during school-time than any other time.

Alderman James Baird, Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, said: “Air pollution harms the health of millions of people worldwide every year, particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions.

“We want to educate students and parents about the benefits of not idling and the small things they can do to make a big difference so that the Lisburn Castlereagh area becomes a safer and healthier place to live, work and visit.”

And as children generally live out 40% of the school week at school, they are exposed to around 60% of the particles of carbon between leaving for school and returning home.

These toxic particles are believed to be capable of stunting brain growth and causing long-term breathing conditions.

The Northern Ireland clean-up campaign launched last week at Harmony Hill Primary School, Lisburn , Co Antrim, and Sullivan Upper Preparatory Department, Holywood , Co Down.

Another 18 primary schools are taking part in the initiative with the aim of tackling air pollution in and around schools by stopping ‘engine-idling’ where drivers continuously run the engine while the car is stationary.

These two schools have asked families to make a pledge to do their part to help reduce pollution around pupils.

Alderman Bill Keery, the Mayor of Ards and North Down said: “Idling outside school gates at drop off and pick up means children are exposed to increased and unnecessary air pollution.

“By walking or cycling, we can improve our health through exercise, limit air pollution and lower greenhouse gases all at the same time. It is important that we all do our bit.”

Youngsters have been provided with a resource pack which includes materials and resources to help them develop their own no-idling project.

The campaign, aimed initially at P5s, encourages pupils to spread awareness through social media, by designing posters and getting their parents to sign pledges not to idle cars outside schools.

It also aims to develop cross-curricular skills through language and literacy, maths and numeracy plus personal development.

Ards and North Down Borough Council and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council spearheaded the project which is part-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural affairs.

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