How dangerous is air pollution for children?
Air pollution may be invisible, but it’s incredibly dangerous for children. Breathing toxic air can damage their growth and leave them with lasting health problems. Unborn babies, newborns and young children are particularly vulnerable because their bodies are still developing.
And it’s not just in the UK. Around the world more than 17 million babies under the age of one are breathing toxic air, and they continue to breathe it as they grow up. Exposure to air pollution during these critical stages of development can damage children’s lung growth, increase their risk of conditions like asthma and reduce their brain development. Globally, air pollution is linked to deadly diseases like pneumonia, which kills almost 1 million children under the age of five around the world every year.
Every child has the right to grow up breathing clean air wherever they live, learn and play.
How are Unicef protecting children from unsafe air?
Unicef UK are uniquely placed to make sure that a rights based approach is taken to tackle the air pollution crisis in the UK.
Under the government’s air quality plans, unsafe levels of air pollution in around 71% of UK towns and cities is likely to be the case for another 12 years – in this time the health of millions of children could be damaged beyond repair.
We don’t think the current Government strategy is ambitious enough, nor does it prioritise action for children. This poses a direct threat to a child’s right to health (Article 24 in the Convention on the Rights of the Child), and to not only survive (Article 6) but thrive in a clean and safe environment (Article 24).
We are well-positioned to use our expertise and profile on children’s rights to urge the UK’s governments to put in place ambitious policies that protect children and lower pollution. We can also draw on the work of Unicef globally and specific country offices which has exposed the damaging link between air pollution and children’s health.
Later this year we will be launching a campaign to urge the UK Government to prioritise children’s health and keep children safe from polluted air.
If you want to know how you can get involved, simply sign up below and you’ll be the first to hear about our campaign on air pollution.
Is there anything I can do right now?
Of course! There are lots of small steps that we can all take to protect ourselves from polluted air. And we’ve got great advice from Bethany and Kensy who added, “Instead of driving cars you could ride a bike or walk, and play in parks instead of roads.”
For more information about air pollution in your local area and for health advice, visit the Government’s air quality website.