Child health experts warn of 'worryingly low' air pollution awareness

5th February 2019

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  • Air ,
  • UK government


Michael Sweeney

Nine in ten child health experts think the UK public should be more concerned about the negative impact air pollution is having on young people's health, a survey has found.

In a report released today, Unicef UK said that the “worryingly low levels of awareness are due to a lack of publicly available information about the health effects of toxic air.

Less than 20% of the survey respondents feel there is sufficient patient guidance, and only 30% believe there is enough information available to health experts to educate and inform the public.

This comes after Unicef UK found last year that around one in three children breathe harmful levels of pollution every day that could damage their health and development.

Moreover, the government's own data forecasts air pollution to cost health and social care services at least £2bn as a result of its impact on heart disease, lung cancer, strokes and childhood asthma.

“The impact of toxic air is undeniable,“ Unicef UK executive director, Mike Penrose, said. “The UK is home to more children suffering from respiratory conditions than anywhere else in Europe.

“Every 20 minutes a child experiencing an asthma attack is admitted to hospital. Now child health professionals are warning of the seriousness of this growing health crisis.“

The survey also found that around 90% of respondents believe toxic air is already causing health problems for children in their region, and that the government should be prioritising action to tackle the problem now.

But Unicef UK said the problem shows no signs of abating, with the government's current plans set to result in air pollution remaining at dangerous levels for at least another 10 years.

Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which co-produced the research, said that a recent shift by the government to prioritise young people's health was welcomed.

But added: “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.“

Image credit: iStock


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