The Effects of Traffic Air Pollution in and around Schools on Executive Function and Academic Performance in Children: A Rapid Review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Nicola Gartland
  • Halah Aljofi


This review summarises the extant literature investigating the relation between traffic-related air pollution levels in and around schools and executive functioning in primary-school-aged children. An electronic search was conducted using Web of Science, Scopus, and Education Literature Datasets databases (February 2020). Review articles were also searched, and forwards and backwards searches of identified studies were performed. Included papers were assessed for quality. We included 9 separate studies (published in 13 papers). Findings suggest that indoor and outdoor particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 µm or less (PM 2.5 ) negatively influences executive function and academic achievement and that indoor and outdoor nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) adversely affects working memory. Evidence for the effects of particulate matter with a diameter of 10 µm or less (PM 10 ) is limited but suggests potential wide-ranging negative effects on attention, reasoning, and academic test scores. Air pollution in and around schools influences executive function and appears to impede the developmental trajectory of working memory. Further research is required to establish the extent of these effects, reproducibility, consequences for future attainment, and place within the wider context of cognitive development.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number749
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2022