Parents join forces to advocate for clean air

Three prominent mothers and clean air advocates have joined forces to gather stories from parents around the world whose children’s health has been affected by air pollution and raise concern about their children’s future.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Bhavreen Kandhari and Patrice Tomcik have launched a website,, to raise awareness and increase public pressure on governments to take action to tackle air pollution.

The website invites mothers and parents around the world to tell their stories, creating a resource of real-life examples and helping parents think about the health problems they are witnessing in their children and the potential contributing factors.

Ultimately, they hope this will pressure governments to commit to cleaner air by meeting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines, which will be strengthened for the first time since 2005 on 22 September.

As of 2016, 93% of children worldwide lived in areas where air quality exceeds the WHO’s existing guidelines, and 600,000 per year died from its effects, according to a WHO report in 2018.

girl in blue and white tank top

Rosamund, Bhavreen and Patrice have all seen the harmful impacts of air pollution on their own children. Rosamund’s nine-year-old daughter Ella died in 2013 from severe asthma linked to air pollution and is the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate.

Bhavreen’s twin teenage daughters were born prematurely and already have the lungs of a smoker, while Patrice’s three-year-old son is a leukaemia survivor at greater risk from toxins, including pollution from fracking that occurs near their home in Pennsylvania.

At the time of publication, 44 parents have already submitted their testimonies, including Elizabeth Hauptman from the USA.

Elizabeth said: ‘My son has asthma, and his disease is made worse by air pollution. In the summertime, we need to watch our weather app to see if it’s safe for our son to play outdoors. On hot days, when the air quality is terrible, I know that he’s going to have a tough day. As a mother who has seen the fear in her son’s face as his chest tightens and he gasps to breathe, we must do more to protect him and children who suffer from this chronic illness.

‘Far too many times, I have had the experience of seeing my child gasp for air in the throes of an asthma attack. My son developed asthma at age three. During his attacks, he fights for every breath, a sign that his lungs are working too hard, too inefficiently, to support his heart and other vital organs. Several times we have landed in the emergency room. Far too often I have had to rush my son home after a soccer game or swimming on hot summer days to use his nebulizer and get his asthma under control. As I parent, I want to do whatever I can to help ease my son’s disease.

‘We live in Michigan, which has some of the worst rates of asthma in the country, according to the American Lung Association. Childhood asthma rates are significantly higher for children of colour. Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma, and Black children are 10 times more likely to die from asthma than white, non-Hispanic kids. These statistics make it abundantly clear that clean air is an environmental and social justice issue.’

Thea Jeffer from the UK also questions whether air pollution is affecting her child’s asthma: ‘My son and I have lived in Finsbury Park in London since he was 10 months old. Just after he turned one, he was hospitalized for a week with bronchiolitis and since then he’s suffered from viral induced asthma, requiring hospitalization 1-3 times per year, and dependent on a salbutamol inhaler to get through regular colds. We were told he might outgrow this but so far at almost 7 years old, he hasn’t.

‘He takes a preventer inhaler every day. In the last episode two weeks ago, he didn’t really have viral symptoms, only the asthma, which makes me wonder what is really triggering this. We are close to some high traffic areas in Finsbury Park so it seems logical his asthma could be related to the air quality.’

Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence


Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew Lohmann
Andrew Lohmann
2 years ago

A teacher told me that when she taught infants in the 1950s perhaps two children had asthma in a class. I recall something similar in the 1960s as a child. 30 years ago anecdotally that has risen to 50% of the class and the use of bicycles for work and generally had dropped greatly.

Andrew Lohmann
Andrew Lohmann
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lohmann

Another retired teacher of older children did not observe such severe change or so severe effect.

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top