Children are most exposed to the dangers of toxic air while they make their way to and from school. Read our latest report to find out more. Photo: Unicef/2018/Sutton-Hibbert

The toxic school run

How toxic air is putting
children's health in danger

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Air pollution is an invisible but dangerous threat to children’s health. Toxic emissions can damage children’s growth and leave them with lasting health problems. In 71% of UK towns and cities, children are breathing unsafe levels of air pollution. Around 1 in 3 babies are growing up in areas of the UK with unsafe levels of particulate matter – that’s nearly 270,000 babies under the age of 1 in the UK

This not only violates a child’s right to health, but also their future. It could impact their right to education, their right to play and ultimately, their right to life.

This research briefing sets out new data from Queen Mary’s University London that looks at children’s exposure to air pollution across the school day.

The data finds children are disproportionately exposed to higher doses of pollution during the school run and whilst they are at school – particularly at break time when they’re in the school playground. This suggests that major gains for children’s health could be made if funding, interventions and policies were targeted to pollution reduction around schools and nurseries and on the school run itself.

Unicef UK is calling on the government to urgently fund and prioritise measures that protect children from toxic air before irreversible damage is done to their health and their futures. To support this, the government should announce a ring-fenced funding pot to pay for measures that protects children from toxic air where they learn and play.

Read our report, "The Toxic School Run"

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