New crossing lollipop measures pollution at the school gates

Car maker Renault has revealed a unique crossing lollipop that can measure air pollution as part of a campaign to improve air quality around schools.

The custom-made sign was created for Clean Air Day to raise awareness about the impact idling engines have on the environment, especially around pedestrians and children.

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Research by the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK has found that 8,549 schools and nurseries around the UK are in areas with “dangerously high” levels of pollution when measured against World Health Organisation guidelines. Renault research has found that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of parents admit to leaving their car idling during the school run.

The lollipop is designed to look like a regular crossing warning but features a built-in air sensor and two displays built into the head. One side shows the exact concentration of fine particulates – known as PM2.5 – in the atmosphere while the reverse features simple iconography that shows whether it is "Good", "Okay" or "Poor" allowing both parents and children to see the quality of the air they are breathing as they enter the school gates.

(Photo: Renault)

The bands are based on the boundaries published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), running through a range of PM2.5 levels from low, through to moderate and high.

Demonstrated outside Castle Newnham school in Bedford, the Renault lollipop recorded air pollution figures of between 2.5 μg/㎥ and 14.7 μg/㎥ from 7:00 to 7:45am which is deemed as low by Defra – Good on the lollipop. By 8am, with traffic levels rising this figure quickly went up to 25.7 μg/㎥ – exceeding the legal limit in the UK. By the time the afternoon school run – noticeably busier than the morning one – was in full flow, levels continued to exceed this figure.

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The World Health Organisation recommends that the air we breathe should not exceed 10 μg/㎥ of fine particulate matter. The legal limit in the UK is double that figure.

“The lollipop has been the symbol of road safety for decades,” commented Renault’s Matt Shirley. “Today, safety is not just about how to cross a road, it is also about how safe the air is that our children breathe going in and out of schools on a daily basis.

“The adoption of electric vehicles is a journey, but in the meantime, it’s important that we all do our bit and don’t leave our engines running unnecessarily.”