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How does air pollution affect children’s health – and how can we help?

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

While we try to protect them from everything, there are some things that we can’t protect children from. Air pollution is one of them.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.8 billion children under the age of 15 breathe air every day that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk.

Children are classed as a vulnerable group, meaning pollution can be deadly for them. In recent years, more and more research has been conducted into the link between air pollution and children’s health, with some terrifying results. But what can we do about it?

Find out in this article, which identifies the risks, benefits and solutions.

The affect of air pollution on chlidren's health. Air pollution symptoms for children, including respiratory problems, pneumonia and mortality.

How does air pollution affect children’s health?

Air pollution can affect children’s health both physically and mentally. Here are some issues that can materialise as a result of exposure to unsafe air quality.

Respiratory problems

Based on data from the World Health Organisation, it’s estimated that 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions affecting children who are exposed to dirty air. Increased indoor levels of particulate matter is estimated to worsen asthma symptoms in children by 6-7% for a 10 μg·m-3 increment in indoor PM2.5.

And research commissioned by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation found that almost a third (27%) of all schools and colleges in the UK were located in areas where levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) were above the World Health Organisation’s guideline limits.


Pneumonia – a disease that inflames the lungs, causing a build up of fluid, making it difficult to breathe – is the leading cause of death in children.

According to UNICEF, children’s risk of developing pneumonia is doubled following exposure to air pollution. This could be caused by indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as second-hand smoke, and is said to cause over 920,000 deaths globally as a result.