Every child's breath is under threat

How toxic air is putting children’s health at risk
and what you can do to help fix it

Home > Keeping children safe from toxic air

You can’t see it, but right here in the UK, there is a dangerous threat to children’s health: Toxic air.

Day in, day out, our children are breathing dangerously high levels of air pollution. Across 86% of the UK, children are breathing in harmful levels of toxic air. Toxic air can harm their lungs, damage the development of their brains and stunt their growth. And it could leave them with lasting problems like asthma, badly affecting their futures.

“It can give you asthma,” says nine-year-old Jess. “If you don’t breathe clean air you can get lung disease but it can also affect your intelligence.”

Children are the least responsible for polluting the air but the most vulnerable to its harmful effects. This is wrong. Every child has the right to health. Every child has the right to live, learn and play in a clean and safe environment.

Ever wondered why air pollution is a threat to children's health?

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How can we protect children from toxic air?

Current national action on toxic air lacks ambition and direction, leaving children at risk of serious harm. The government admits that toxic levels of pollution are likely to continue for another decade, but there is no plan to protect children in the meantime. Without specific commitment and funding to reduce children’s exposure to harmful pollutants, they remain dangerously vulnerable.

Until healthy air quality levels are reached across the UK, the government has a responsibility to protect children from the harmful effects of toxic air. That’s why we’re calling on them to:

  1. Commit to targets that reduce toxic air in the UK to the legal levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.
  2. Create an action plan across UK Government Departments, including those with responsibility for the environment, health and transport, that protects children from toxic air.
  3. Set up a Little Lungs Fund for Local Authorities to pay for changes to keep children safe from toxic air where they live, learn and play.

By adding your name today, we can make sure the government hear loud and clear that urgent action is needed to protect children from harm to their health and futures.

What are we asking the UK Government to do?

Jess takes a deep breath and blows bubbles. Join our campaign to keep children like Jess safe from the dangers of toxic air. Photo: Unicef/2018/Sutton-Hibbert
It’s especially important for children because they want to be healthy for the life ahead of them.

If they’re healthy when they’re a kid they’re more likely to have a better life when they’re older.

Jess, 9

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Every child's breath is under threat from toxic air. Thalia blows up a balloon. Photo: Unicef/2018/Sutton-Hibbert

What else can you do right now?

As well as adding your name to the campaign, there’s plenty more to do.

Read our briefing "Healthy Air for Every Child: A Call for National Action"

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Protect yourself from air pollution by changing your route to school or daily commute – walk along fewer busy roads, even if it does mean taking the long way round.

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Scoot, walk and cycle more – you can also encourage your friends and families to do the same.

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Spread the word – speak to your teachers, colleagues and friends and make sure that everyone knows about the importance of clean air for children.

Despite how serious a risk this is to our children, little public money is being targeted to tackle toxic air where children live, learn and play. There are measures that can make a real difference. But our children’s health is not being prioritised. Every child should be able to look towards a long, happy life; no child should be unhealthy because of the air that they breathe. The time to act is now.

Add your name to protect children from deadly toxic air

Take action