‘A breath of fresh air’ is a common expression but, for many children, fresh air is a rare commodity.
Clean air is certainly at a premium these days, with recent international research indicating that nine in ten children are breathing toxins well above safe levels. UNICEF has warned that by 2050, the leading cause of child mortality will be linked to air pollution and yet the right to clean air is not protected in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Research reveals generalised worry about air pollution among children
It is an omission that many children feel strongly about. Of the 4,000 questioned as part of a recent international YouGov poll commissioned by Blueair/GAP, 94% said they believed it was their right to breathe clean air.
Nine-year-old Mathilda, from London, voiced the general sentiment when she remarked: “It isn’t fair that some children have more clean air than others.”
And nine-year-old Yash, from Delhi, agrees. “Everyone has the right to clean air,” he says.
Air pollution and children – a toxic combination
The fact that despite the pandemic, over 67% of the children questioned were still worried about how air pollution would affect their health, bears testimony to how serious their concerns are. And according to a respiratory specialist, Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, they have very valid reasons to worry. “Children’s developing organs and immune systems make them especially vulnerable to dirty air,” he explains.
“As they grow, they continue to be at high risk from air pollution because their immune systems, lungs and brains are still developing. 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.”
A cleaner future for kids
However, the research did provide some good news. Despite their concerns about air pollution, most of the children expressed a desire and a commitment to do something about it. “We actually do have the power as a lot of people listen to kids,” says eight-year-old Hugo from London.
It is to support children like Hugo, Yash, Mathilda and countless others that our brand Blueair – specialists in creating high-quality, award-winning air purifiers – have teamed up with sustainability charity Global Action Plan and launched the Freedom to breathe campaign demanding that the UN make clean air a universal right for children.
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.”
Educating children, engaging the world
The campaign is working with local NGO partners to deliver information in schools in the world’s four worst-affected cities: Delhi, London, Beijing and Los Angeles. They will teach children not only about the dangers of air pollution but also how best to protect themselves from it.
Concurrently, the campaign is working to amplify the voices of young people by asking everyone to petition the UN and demand that a child’s right to clean air be enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sonja Graham, CEO at Global Action Plan, reflects: “Children have the right to clean water and a safe home. Why do they not have the right to breathe clean air?”