8 Ways Parents Can Reduce Children’s Exposure To Hazardous Air Pollution


Following a report on the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who died from air pollution, the government plans to introduce new measures to protect the public from inhaling too much toxic air.

But new legal targets for particulate matter are not expected to be introduced until October 2022 and Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Ella’s mother, who suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013 after exposure to excessive air pollution, has insisted “we need to act now”.

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When asked why we have to wait 16 months for the changes to take effect, Ms. Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said: “I am sad and disappointed that nothing is being done sooner. What about the children who will die in the meantime? ”

Meanwhile, a new study commissioned by the MyDieselClaim.com campaign found that 94% of parents underestimate the dire effects of air pollution in the UK and while 73% say they are concerned about the effects of air pollution on their children’s health, did not know whether they live in a high or low pollution area or how to find out.

“Inhaling dangerous, dirty air can damage developing lungs and make children the hardest hit,” warns Jenny Bates, cleaner air activist for Friends of the Earth.

And Andrea Lee, director of clean air campaigns for the ClientEarth environmental law charity and spokesperson for the Healthy Air Campaign (HA), said, “Exposure to illegal and harmful air pollution has really worrisome effects on children’s health. They are particularly vulnerable as their bodies develop – toxic pollutants can permanently inhibit lung growth in children. ”

She says dangerously polluted air has also been linked to premature births and asthma attacks with an increased risk of hospitalization or worse. In addition, she points out that studies suggest that air pollution affects children’s cognitive development and the ability to learn, and that with such damage in childhood, the risk of chronic diseases later in life is much higher.

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“Ultimately, it’s difficult for parents and children to control the air they breathe,” she says. “It is up to our national and local executives to implement comprehensive solutions to the problem. This should include clean air zones to quickly remove the most polluting vehicles from our roads, and stricter pollution laws in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. ”

In the meantime, HA and Friends of the Earth encourage parents to do their best to minimize their children’s exposure to air pollution by taking the following measures …

1. Know where the air pollution is bad so you can help your children avoid it

Air pollution information isn’t as easy to come by as it should be, explains Lee. Regional information is available on the Defra website (uk-air.defra.gov.uk) and those who live in London can find more detailed information on the London Air Quality Network (londonair.org.uk). Elsewhere, she says it is worth looking online for air quality information from local authorities.

2. If possible, help children avoid heavily polluted areas

“Avoid spending time near sources of pollution such as busy roads, especially during rush hour,” advises Lee, who points out that a small experiment by HA and King’s College London found avoiding busy roads and making them quieter Routes are chosen where safe and reduce pollution by up to two thirds. “Even just standing or walking off the curb can help,” she says.

Says Bates, “Riding on quieter, less crowded streets, on foot or by bike, and supporting programs that limit traffic near schools are all ways parents can keep children cleaner and healthier Breathe air.”

3. Keep the window closed

If you live on a busy road, avoid opening windows at least during rush hour, advises Lee, as this could help reduce indoor pollution.

4. Encourage children to walk or ride bikes instead of driving

According to HA, air pollution in a car can be 9 to 12 times higher than outside because vehicles on the road can travel in a stream of pollutants emitted by other vehicles. The campaign’s experiment to compare travel modes also showed that people who walk or cycle the same route may be less exposed to air pollution than people who sit in a vehicle.

“What a lot of parents don’t know is that air pollution in cars can be worse than walking or cycling on the same streets,” explains Bates. “This is a good reason to leave the car at home to reduce children’s exposure to bad air and overall emissions.”

5. Reduce your own pollution contribution

Road traffic is responsible for up to 80% of illegal nitrogen dioxide air pollution in cities, according to HA. “Leaving the car at home as much as possible and instead walking, cycling, and using public transit can help make the air cleaner for everyone,” says Lee.

6. Don’t have a wood fire or stove at home

Wood fires and stoves are often viewed as a renewable energy source, but Lee explains, “Many people are unaware that they are an increasing source of particulate matter that affects not only your neighbors but also the air quality in your home.” She says, the UK government recently restricted the sale of traditional house coal and wet wood to encourage people to burn less polluting fuels.

7. Talk to your children about air pollution

Talking to children about what air pollution is and what it can do is important, although Lee says discussing such a complex and troubling topic can be daunting for any parent. “When we talk to our children, we have to be honest and speak in a language they understand,” she says. “But the most important thing we can give them is hope: there are solutions,” she promises.

8. Help raise awareness

According to the HA, to make the air cleaner for everyone, including children, parents can write to their MPs and city councilors to ask what they are doing to tackle harmful air pollution, find a local campaign group, or start themselves Join groups like the Clean Air Parents’ Network and support the work of the HA partners who raise awareness and urge action.


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