SIX nursery, school and college sites in Bournemouth and Poole are reportedly in areas with potentially dangerous levels of air pollution.

That is according to research by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) which shows they are among thousands across England in polluted areas.

The charity is calling for stricter laws and a new cross-government air quality minister to protect the public from the effects of toxic air.

The six nursery and education settings in the two towns are in areas where levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are above the World Health Organization-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.

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 – significantly lower than the current legal limit in the UK of 25 micrograms.

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

Professor Stephen Holgate, medical adviser at the BLF, said: “We’ve known about the deadly harm air pollution can cause for decades, it’s time now for urgent action.”

The BLF wants 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.

BCP Council said there are two Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) monitoring stations across the conurbation which measure PM2.5, with a further two monitors in schools which form part of a Public Health Dorset project.

Councillor Mike Greene, BCP Council portfolio holder for transport and sustainability, said: "All four monitoring stations confirm that the current legal limit for PM2.5 was not breached. Nevertheless, BCP Council is keen to keep PM2.5 and other air pollution levels low in all schools in the conurbation and we are engaged in several schemes to do so, particularly around travel to and from school.

“This includes working closely with schools, parents and children to encourage more sustainable journeys. We intend to develop and run a pilot behavioural change anti-idling campaign in partnership with Public Health Dorset at a number primary schools across the BCP area. This will provide a toolkit linked to the national curriculum, specifically to help teachers and children encourage parents who would normally drive to school to switch off their engines whilst waiting outside.

“It is being supported by wider active travel initiatives that we’ve put in place such as bikeability cycle training and the recent appointment of a Sustrans Bike-It Plus officer. We’ve also developed and implemented our own initiative, ‘the new you’ campaign, to get more parents, carers and young people to choose walking, cycling or scooting as their preferred mode of school travel. This promotes the personal benefits of fresh air and exercise as well the affects this can have on improving air quality and reducing congestion in the community.

“These activities will contribute towards reducing carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution, and improve air quality outside schools.”