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International Children’s Day: young people across the world are almost as concerned about air pollution as COVID-19

Press release -

International Children’s Day: young people across the world are almost as concerned about air pollution as COVID-19

  • New international research reveals, despite the year-long pandemic, young people from China, India, the UK and US are almost as worried about how air pollution will affect their health, as COVID-19.
  • Children from China, India, the UK and US also overwhelmingly believe they should have a right to clean air, which is currently not stipulated as a child’s right defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • On International Children’s Day, sustainability charity Global Action Plan and Blueair launch the “Freedom to breathe” campaign, to empower young people to join together to call on the United Nations to acknowledge their right to clean air.
  • Children in the UK have the lowest level of agreement that adults are doing enough to protect the air they breathe (at 24%), whilst children in India report a higher level of agreement at 71%. Half of children in the US (50%) and China (57%) agree that adults are doing enough to protect the air children breathe.
  • In India, young people report significant impacts of poor air quality on their day-to-day lives with 32% saying that before Coronavirus, air pollution stopped them from playing outside or running as fast as they would like to every day. Further to this, a third of children (33%) in India felt air pollution stopped them from being able to breathe easily every day.
  • The average result (combining all four countries) shows that the children overwhelmingly believe they should have the right to be able to breathe clean air (94%).

Tuesday 1 June 2021 - Two-thirds (67%) of young people from China, India, the UK and US are worried about how air pollution will affect their health, which is almost as much as they worry about the health impacts of catching Covid-19 (72%), new research by Global Action Plan and Blueair reveals.

The research, which includes an international YouGov poll of over 4,000 children, from China, India, the UK and US and focus groups* finds that despite currently living through a pandemic, children believe that poor air quality can have serious impacts on their health and development.

Further findings include:

Despite predictions by UNICEF that by 2050 air pollution will become the leading cause of child mortality, clean air is currently not among children’s rights defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is not formally recognised worldwide. In light of this and the overwhelming support from children globally through the polling, Global Action Plan and Blueair today announce the launch of the “Freedom to breathe” campaign.

The campaign aims to empower young people to join together to call on the United Nations to acknowledge their fundamental right to clean air.

As part of the campaign, a school’s programme is educating children on the importance of breathing clean air and what they can do to minimize their exposure to common sources of harmful pollution. This is being delivered through local delivery partners in cities from each of the four surveyed countries which have some of the worst levels of recorded pollution – Bejing, Delhi, Los Angeles, and London.

Sonja Graham, CEO at Global Action Plan, says:It is astounding that clean air is not among the rights of children worldwide. Access to clean air is vital for children to be able to live long healthy lives and realise their full potential. Children have the right to clean water, a safe home, why do they not have a right to clean air to breathe?”

Sara Alsén, Chief Purpose Officer at Blueair says:For the last 25 years, Blueair has been fighting for every child’s right to breathe clean air. By teaming up with civil society actors who share our belief that it’s time to make access to clean air—like access to clean water—the right of every child, we are bringing our founder’s purpose to life.”

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation and WHO advocate for health and air quality says: “Children have a right to breathe clean air. Children recognise the emergency and are demanding that policy makers do what's necessary to protect their health and future. The coroner's decision in Ella's inquest made clear that the UK needs to adopt WHO air quality guidelines and follow them. But air pollution is a global pandemic, so every country should do the same."

Respiratory specialist professor Sir Stephen Holgate says: “Children’s developing organs and immune systems make them especially vulnerable to dirty air. As they grow, they continue to be at high risk from air pollution because their immune systems, lungs and brains are still developing. The fact that the air they breathe is not recognised as a right highlights the lack of understanding and awareness surrounding its harmful impacts. Every day, around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 are breathing air so polluted that it poses serious risks to their health and development. Globally, we must start treating air pollution with the seriousness it deserves.

Notes to Editors:

Global Action Plan is a charity that helps people live more sustainable lives by connecting what is good for us and good for the planet. We're the people behind Clean Air Day, the UK's largest air pollution campaign. We work with people on bringing about compassion not consumerism and increasing wellbeing – what is good for us is often greener too. And we bring business and young people together to work on building a sustainable future. Helping young people develop the skills and knowledge to tackle environmental issues is good for the planet and everyone’s future too.

YouGov data: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4054 children aged 6 to 15. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th March - 14th April 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of each country (aged 6-15).

*Focus groups were carried out to gain insights from young people about their understanding and perception of air quality issues, and their views around children’s rights and responsibilities to clean air. Focus groups were carried out across Delhi, London and Los Angeles with over 150 children aged 7-16, in March – April 2021. They were carried out by; Centre for Environment Education (India), Coalition for Clean Air (USA), Global Action Plan (UK) and Safekids China (China).

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Blueair is a world leading producer of air purification solutions for home and professional use. Founded in Sweden, Blueair delivers innovative, best-in-class, energy efficient products and services sold in over 60 countries around the world. Blueair is part of the Unilever family of brands.

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Sara Alsén

Sara Alsén

Press contact Chief Purpose Officer Communications & Sustainable Business +46(0)761107057