Almost half of children concerned about air pollution, survey reveals

43% of children living in urban areas are concerned about the levels of air pollution near their school, new figures reveal.

A YouGov poll, carried out for Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, surveyed over 1,000 children aged six to 15 years old about their attitudes towards air pollution and the actions they think should be taken to help clean up the air.

The survey also revealed:

  • The number of children concerned about air pollution rose to over half (53%) in London;
  • More than one in three (34%) think that politicians are most responsible for bringing down levels of air pollution, while over a quarter (29%) believed drivers are most accountable;
  • 34% said having a shorter distance to travel would most encourage them to walk, cycle or scoot to school, followed by fewer cars on the road (12%) and separated from traffic cycling routes (11%);
  • More than half (57%) of the children surveyed said they were told about air pollution by their school.

According to Sustrans, more than 2,000 schools and nurseries are near to roads with damaging levels of motor emissions. 68% of children live two miles or less from their school and almost a third (32%) of children are driven to school, with or without a period of walking, cycling, scooting, and a further 14% take the bus. The report found 3% cycle, 1% scoot and 47% walk.

Sustrans has called on UK Government and local authorities to invest in cycling and walking infrastructure and further training and engagement programmes which they believe will enable more young people to ‘travel actively to school every day.’

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ CEO, said: ‘We’re in the midst of an air quality crisis. This survey demonstrates for the first time that children are aware and concerned about poor air quality. We wanted to hear their views on the matter, as they are some of the most susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution, which can lead to poor lung and brain development and asthma if exposed for long periods of time at a young age.

‘The UK Government needs to show leadership by helping local authorities fund and deliver better cycling and walking infrastructure so that every child is able to travel on foot or by bike to school in safety and with confidence. Failure to act now on high levels of air pollution has the potential to have a detrimental impact on children’s health.’

Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, adds: ‘Air pollution is a danger to everyone’s health and children are among those most vulnerable as their lungs are still developing. Childhood is a time for learning and playing, not worrying. It’s sad to see that so many children are concerned about the air they breathe. To help cut emissions, the Government must provide incentives for walking, cycling and using public transport as part of a comprehensive Clean Air Act.’

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Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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