New project is a breath of fresh air for Bradford school kids


University of Leeds researchers are taking part in a new Born in Bradford project with primary school children across the city - to measure levels of pollution and its impact on health.

The landmark Born in Bradford (BiB) research programme, based at Bradford Royal Infirmary, has launched the ‘BiB Breathes’ study, which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The study has been set up in response to plans by Bradford Council to introduce a Clean Air Zone in Bradford to try to reduce levels of pollution in the city.

Working with teams from the University of Leeds, University of York, St. Stephen’s C of E Primary School, and Bradford Council, the project will involve training hundreds of primary school pupils to become ‘citizen scientists’ and monitor levels of pollution they are exposed in school and during their daily commute.

Dr Kirsty Pringle and Dr Jim McQuaid, both from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, have been developing and testing portable air quality sensors that the students can carry around with them, so the team can track the children’s exposure to pollution.

The measurements will be used to track the effectiveness of Bradford’s Clean Air Zone is in reducing children’s exposure to pollution over a two year period.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, and many schools are in areas where air pollution is high.

Dr Kirsty Pringle, School of Earth and Environment

The team will also track the impact of the Clean Air Zone on birth outcomes, and lung and heart health in adults and children by looking at the number of emergency and hospital GP attendances related to these conditions over three years before and after the introduction of the Clean Air Zone.

Dr Pringle said: “Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, and many schools are in areas where air pollution is high.  

“Giving children from across Bradford the chance to become citizen scientists and understand the impact of air pollution in their neighbourhood is a great opportunity to raise awareness from a young age about what can be done to tackle air pollution.”

The team also plans to use its findings to inspire the next generation of budding researchers by working with teachers and pupils to develop science-learning materials

On Clean Air Day, Drs Pringle and McQuaid gave a recorded talk to the pupils at St. Stephen's C of E Primary School. They were joined by the MOBIle Urban Sensing vehicle (MOBIUS) from the University of Sheffield’s Urban Flows Laboratory. 

MOBIUS is an electric van that has been fully kitted out as a mobile pollution observatory.  Pupils were able to see MOBIUS and heard about how it can be used to measure pollution in their city.

Professor Rosie McEachan, Director of Born in Bradford who is leading the study, said: “Poor air quality is a major cause of illness, and children are particularly vulnerable to its effects. With the help of our pupil-citizen scientists, our new BiB Breathes study will be able to find out how exposed children are to pollution, and how best we can reduce exposure.”

Professor John Wright, Director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research and Respiratory Physician who is involved with the study, said: “There is increasing evidence that pollution is linked to greater severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

"Traffic pollution levels dropped during lockdown, but have already gone back to pre-lockdown levels. This important project will give us the information we need to help find ways to minimise the harm of pollution in the city and keep our communities healthy.”

Further information:

Top image credit: British Lung Foundation

Born in Bradford (BiB) is one of the largest birth cohort research studies in the world, tracking the lives of over 30,000 Bradfordians to find out what influences the health and wellbeing of families. We use our findings to develop new and practical ways to work with families and health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities. The Born in Bradford project is hosted by the Bradford Institute of Health Research which is located at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. @bibresearch