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Air Pollution kills 1,200 EU children a year say European Environment Agency

New air quality assessments released by the EEA indicate that air pollution causes over 1,200 premature deaths per year in people under the age of 18 in Europe and significantly increases the risk of disease later in life.

The report accepts that air quality is generally improving but insists that more needs to be done, given that much of Europe remains above the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.  The EEA pick out central-eastern Europe and Italy as being in particular need of improvement, while Faro in Portugal, and the Swedish cities of Umeå and Uppsala were ranked as the cleanest European cities.

The EEA have issued a briefing document focusing specifically on the effect of air pollution on young people and the measures that should be taken to mitigate the dangers.

The briefing highlights the reasons why children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality and presents some examples of best practice that can be actioned locally. These focus on the places where children spend most of their time: at home, travelling to school and at schools (including school gates, drop-off zones, classrooms and playgrounds). 

The briefing promotes clean air zones around schools by creating ‘school streets’ which ban cars at the beginning and end of the school day and/or relocating drop-off points. School design is also touched upon, with a recommendation that green infrastructure be used to clean the air around playgrounds – in Europe only 10% of the area within a 300m radius of the average school is green.

Indoor air quality in schools is also addressed, with the benefits of ventilation being highlighted: ‘It lowers CO2 levels and the risk of aerosol-transmitted diseases, removes moisture and associated mould risks, as well as odours and toxic chemicals from construction products, furniture and cleaning agents.’

EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said: ‘Air pollution levels across Europe are still unsafe and European air quality policies should aim to protect all citizens, but especially our children, who are most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution. It is urgent that we continue to step up measures at EU, national and local level to protect our children, who cannot protect themselves. The surest way to keep them safe is by making the air we all breathe cleaner.’

 

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