Child health experts warn air pollution is damaging children's health

5 February 2019        

Category: BHF Comment

Unicef UK has today warned that the level of air pollution in the UK is damaging children’s health. The warning comes as child health experts say parents and families are worryingly unaware of the dangers posed by the UK’s toxic air.

Smoke coming out of large chimneys

Public concern too low

According to a joint survey by Unicef UK and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 92% of child health experts believe that the public should be more concerned about the negative impact of air pollution on children’s health.

The charity said that public awareness of the damaging effects of air pollution on children’s health is worryingly low, and that people should be better equipped to protect themselves from its harmful effects.

Child health experts who completed the survey said that this low level of public awareness is a result of a lack of publicly-available information about the health effects of toxic air, which prevents people from taking preventative action.

According to the survey, less than 20% of respondents feel there is sufficient patient guidance and information, and only 30% said there was adequate information available to health professionals to educate and inform the public.

Meanwhile, 88% of Child Health experts warn that toxic air is already causing health problems for children in their region, and over 90% believe that the Government should be prioritising action on air pollution.

Action needed now

The warning comes after the Government published its Clean Air Strategy last month. In the strategy, the Government announced plans to set a more ambitious long-term target to reduce people’s exposure to PM2.5 – the most dangerous particles for health. While the Government said that it will examine what action would need be taken to meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines on air pollution limits, the BHF believes that we need more stringent limits in place now.

Speaking about the damaging impact of air pollution on health, our Chief Executive Simon Gillespie, said:

“Unacceptably high levels of air pollution present an extraordinary risk to millions of children across the country, and could be putting thousands at risk of heart and circulatory diseases in the years to come.

“Air pollution is currently responsible for up to 36,000 deaths in the UK each year, with heart disease being a leading cause. If we are to improve this dire situation, it is essential that the government adopts the World Health Organisation’s more stringent limits for air pollution. Without urgent action now, the health of children could be compromised for years to come.”