A group of scientists have linked air pollution to lower cognitive development in children.
Scientists from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona have found pupils living in polluted areas developed less quickly than those in clean air.
The researchers monitored 2,715 children aged seven to ten, assessing their memory and attentiveness.
They found pupils at schools with clean air made far more progress over the 12 months than those at schools polluted with high levels of nitrogen dioxide and ultra-fine particles.
The researchers wrote: “The findings suggest that the developing brain may be vulnerable to traffic-related air pollution well into middle childhood.”
Studies highlighted schools with clean air showed average improvement in working memory of 11.5 per cent over the year, compared to 7.4 per cent at polluted schools.
The scientists looked at factors such as commuting time to school, amount of green space at their schools, the level of education achieved by their parents and smoking in the home.
The report says parents could see behavioural, intellectual, and social problems spurred on by rising levels of pollution and that new schools should take these findings into account when deciding location.
It comes as the Coalition Government announced it was rejecting calls to introduce extra protection for schoolchildren in pollution hotspots.
Last November, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK was in breach of EU law and that it should have created plans to tackle air pollution in the 16 cities.
The UK’s Supreme Court now has jurisdiction over the matter and will hear the case in April.