Toxic air harming children across 86% of UK

Unicef has launched a campaign that aims to protect children and young people from the UK's toxic air.

In its Healthy Air for Every Child: A Call for National Action report, Unicef says that across 86% of the UK, children are breathing dangerous levels of toxic air. They say current national action on toxic air lacks ambition and direction, leaving children at risk of serious harm.

Unicef calls for the Government to protect children by:

  • committing to targets that reduce toxic air in the UK to the legal levels recommended by the World Health Organisation
  • creating an action plan across UK Government Departments, including those with responsibility for the environment, health and transport, that protects children from toxic air
  • setting up a Little Lungs Fund for Local Authorities to pay for changes to keep children safe from toxic air where they live, learn and play.

Responding to the launch of the report, Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

One third of the UK’s children are breathing in harmful levels of air pollution and that puts them at high risk of asthma and lung infections which can be fatal. But with appropriate action, these risks don’t have to become a reality.

In recent years, there has been a very welcome shift towards the prioritisation of child health by our Government. I would now like to see this extended towards the prevention of air pollution. The recommendations set out in Unicef UK’s report lay the foundations for this and I very much support them. We now need the Government to act.