Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has visited Knockbreda Primary School in Belfast, who are participating in his Department's Clean Air Day Primary Schools Campaign to mark Clean Air Day 2022.
Clean Air Day, Thursday 16th June, is the UK's largest air pollution campaign and seeks to bring together businesses, education and the health sector to increase awareness of the health impacts of air pollution, improve the understanding of air pollution and suggest actions that everyone can take to reduce it.
To coincide with this year's Clean Air Day campaign, DAERA, with the support of the Education Authority, Department of Health and Department for Education, has developed a presentation for primary 4 to 7 year groups. The presentation identifies the sources of air pollution, highlights the impact that it can have on one's health and helps the children identify simple changes they can make in their daily lives to reduce air pollution. Officials from the Air and Environmental Quality Unit within DAERA have visited 38 primary schools across Northern Ireland to deliver the presentation in the lead up to Clean Air Day.
Minister Poots was keen to highlight the importance of the campaign saying: "Education and awareness, particularly in primary school age children, is key to driving behavioural change and reducing harmful emissions to air, which can be achieved by promoting the benefits of active travel and public transport. How to reduce energy consumption, something which is key at present given concerns about rising energy prices, and how to effectively heat your home in an environmentally friendly manner are also key messages. Providing this education and awareness to primary school children will enable positive attitudes and behaviours to be established from a young age. I consider this to be an ideal time to reach out to the younger generation, as interest in environmental issues is high, as a result of social media and recent coverage about climate change and COP 26."
The Minister continued: "I fully support this campaign, not only due to the key environmental messages it delivers, but also because of the collaboration with other Departments and the Education Authority in getting my officials into schools to engage directly with the children. I believe it is so important for children at this time, to see that visitors back in schools and to have the opportunity to quiz my officials on issues that are important to them."
Primary 5 and Eco teacher at Knockbreda Primary School, Jenny Fletcher also expressed her support of the campaign saying "Here at Knockbreda Primary School, we are proud holders of an Eco 'Green flag' and Sustrans Silver Active Travel Award. We are absolutely delighted to be a part of the Clean Air Day Primary Schools Campaign 2022 and welcome Minister Poots to the school, as well as DAERA officials to deliver a Key Stage 2 assembly. As a school, we aspire to educate all of our children on the importance of their role in the future of our planet. "
Further information on Clean Air Day can be found at https://www.actionforcleanair.org.uk/campaigns/clean-air-day
Minister Poots also used this opportunity to launch his Department's updated "Air Aware" SMS subscription service which can alert members of the public when periods of high air pollution are forecast or being experienced in Northern Ireland. The service is targeted at those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease and lung disease and can be initiated by texting 'AIR' to 07984405722.
Minister Poots said: "Clean Air Day is an opportunity for us all to think about our health. If you suffer from, or care for anyone with health conditions that may be exacerbated by high air pollution events I would urge you to sign up to the Air Aware service. This service sends a notification to the individual's mobile phone when levels of elevated pollutants are detected or the air quality forecast has identified potential elevated levels of pollutants. Alternatively, you can download the 'Northern Ireland Air' app. I would also encourage everyone to visit the air quality NI website for more information on what we can all do to reduce air pollution."