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. In 71% of UK towns and cities, 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.

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How can we protect children from toxic air?

The UK Government has the power to put children’s health at the heart of it’s work on air pollution. The current strategy on air pollution is not ambitious enough, nor does it prioritise action for children. This poses a direct threat to a child’s right to health.

Huge health gains could be made if funding in the UK was targeted towards reducing children’s exposure where they learn and play. By adding your name to our campaign we can make sure the Government puts children at the heart of their air quality strategy so that children are no longer forced to breathe deadly toxic air.

How will the Budget help protect children from toxic air?

In this year’s Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced £20 million of additional funding  to support more local authorities to meet their air quality obligations. Whilst this is a welcome first step, unfortunately this funding does not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society whose health we know is affected by toxic air.

We urgently need further action and attention to protect the health of the most vulnerable in our society from the impact of air pollution.

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 "The Toxic School Run"

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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.

Small steps can make a huge difference, but ultimately we need the Government to step up and take action on toxic air.

Add your name to protect children from deadly toxic air

Take action