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BACKGROUND: Air pollution harms health across the life course. Children are at particular risk of adverse effects during development, which may impact on health in later life. Interventions that improve air quality are urgently needed both to improve public health now, and prevent longer-term increased vulnerability to chronic disease. Low Emission Zones are a public health policy intervention aimed at reducing traffic-derived contributions to urban air pollution, but evidence that they deliver health benefits is lacking. We describe a natural experiment study (CHILL: Children's Health in London and Luton) to evaluate the impacts of the introduction of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on children's health. METHODS: CHILL is a prospective two-arm parallel longitudinal cohort study recruiting children at age 6-9 years from primary schools in Central London (the focus of the first phase of the ULEZ) and Luton (a comparator site), with the primary outcome being the impact of changes in annual air pollutant exposures (nitrogen oxides [NOx], nitrogen dioxide [NO2], particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5micrograms [PM2.5], and less than 10 micrograms [PM10]) across the two sites on lung function growth, measured as post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) over five years. Secondary outcomes include physical activity, cognitive development, mental health, quality of life, health inequalities, and a range of respiratory and health economic data. DISCUSSION: CHILL's prospective parallel cohort design will enable robust conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of the ULEZ at improving air quality and delivering improvements in children's respiratory health. With increasing proportions of the world's population now living in large urban areas exceeding World Health Organisation air pollution limit guidelines, our study findings will have important implications for the design and implementation of Low Emission and Clean Air Zones in the UK, and worldwide. CLINICALTRIALS: GOV: NCT04695093 (05/01/2021).

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Pediatr

Publication Date





Air pollution, Children, Cohort, Costs, Ethnicity, Health impacts, Health inequalities, Lung function, Child, Humans, Air Pollution, Child Health, Cohort Studies, Environmental Exposure, London, Longitudinal Studies, Particulate Matter, Prospective Studies, Quality of Life