Unicef UK hold rallies calling for an end to illegal levels of toxic air

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16th March 2019 – Today, Unicef UK held rallies in Birmingham, London and Manchester to show how strongly local children, families and campaigners feel about the urgent issue of toxic air in the city.

Unicef UK found that in the cities we have demonstrated in, around 75% of children live in areas with illegal levels of air pollution. By 2035, the UK could spend over £5 billion on air pollution-related health costs.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to live, learn and play in a clean and safe environment. However, in England and Wales, more than 2,000 schools and nurseries are located close to roads with illegal levels of pollution.

At the events, campaigners came together under banners designed with children’s artwork. Through Unicef UK’s OutRight campaign pupils across the country have been calling on decision-makers to act to reduce illegal levels of air pollution.

Becky Dallison, Campaigns Manager at Unicef UK, said:

“It has been fantastic to see parents and children coming together to voice their concerns about the dangers of illegal levels of toxic air across Birmingham, London and Manchester and even better that the artwork of children got to take centre-stage.”

“Currently around one third of children across the UK are breathing in illegal levels of air pollution and this figure rises to around 75% in the cities we have demonstrated in.

“Unicef UK urges policy makers to act and ensure legally-binding targets to reduce air pollution to acceptable levels, a national strategy that prioritises action for children, and a ‘Little Lungs Fund’ of ring-fenced funding to protect children’s health.”

Muhna Khan, an attendee at the Birmingham event, said:

“As a parent I try to be a superhero for my two-year old daughter, protecting her from as many dangers as I can, so I find it incredibly worrying that air pollution is an invisible threat. She suffers from respiratory problems and it pains me to know that her condition may worsen due to toxic air.”

“I want to see a more robust, cross governmental action plan to tackle the problem head on and recognise that air pollution is an immediate danger – particularly to children- which simply cannot be allowed to continue for another 10 years.”

“Children are the future- our future- and we need to protect that future in the best way we can.”

Jenna Fansa, a campaigner at CleanAir4Schools who attended the London event, said:

“Breathing clean air is a basic human right – just as we wouldn’t let our children drink dirty water, we need to ensure that they are not breathing toxic air. I am passionate about cleaning up the air outside London’s schools, not just because of the impact it has on my children’s health and development, but for everyone breathing London’s air.”

“I’m here today to call on the government to take urgent action to reduce traffic on roads next to schools and to remove bus stops from outside playgrounds. When decisions are being made about road networks, I urge everyone to put the health of children above everything else.”

Jo Murphy, a campaigner who attended the Manchester rally, said: “As a Unicef UK Children’s Champion, it has been brilliant to come to the rally today to demonstrate against toxic air.”

“After repeatedly noticing how bad the air quality was on the school run, which is especially worrying as my child has asthma, I felt compelled to get involved with the campaign. I have organised for the school to put up diffusion kits, signed petitions and wrote to my local MP.”

“However, more needs to be done and I would like to see further support for pedestrianised areas and cycle lanes to ensure that all children can live in a clean and safe environment.”


Notes to editors:

  • OutRight empowers children and young people to realise their own rights, and to speak out in support of the rights of all children. This year, OutRight is focusing on air pollution and protecting children’s right to health and a safe, clean environment. You can find out more here.

Photos available for download here

For more information, please contact:

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, [email protected] 

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK.

For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

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