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Children across the world are almost as concerned about air pollution as COVID-19


  • New international research reveals, despite the year-long pandemic, young people from China, India, the UK and US are almost as worried about how air pollution will affect their health, as COVID-19. 
  • Children from the UK, China, India and the US overwhelmingly believe they should have a right to clean air, which is currently not stipulated as a child’s right defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • British children are the most likely to say that adults are not doing enough to protect the air they breathe, with just over one in ten saying they have never learnt anything about air pollution.
  • Global Action Plan and Blueair launch the “Freedom to breathe” campaign, to empower young people to jointly call on the United Nations to acknowledge their right to clean air.


1 June, 2021 Two-thirds (67%) of young people from China, India, the UK and US are worried about how air pollution will affect their health, which is almost as much as they worry about the health impacts of catching COVID-19 (72%), new research by Global Action Plan and Blueair reveals. 


In Britain specifically, despite worry being less high than the international average, children’s level of worry about how air pollution will impact their health compared to COVID-19 remained relatively high (42% for air pollution and 57% for COVID-19). 


The research, which includes an international YouGov poll of over 4,000 children from the UK, China, India, and US, and focus groups* finds that despite currently living through a pandemic, children believe that poor air quality can have serious impacts on their health and development.


- Children in the UK have the lowest level of agreement that adults are doing enough to protect the air they breathe (at 24%), whilst children in India report a higher level of agreement at 71%.

- Half of children in the US (50%) and China (57%) agree that adults are doing enough to protect the air children breathe.

- In India, young people report significant impacts of poor air quality on their day-to-day lives with 32% saying that before Coronavirus, air pollution stopped them from playing outside or running as fast as they would like to every day.   

- Further to this, a third of children (33%) in India felt air pollution stopped them from being able to breathe easily every day. The average result (combining all four countries) shows that the children overwhelmingly believe they should have the right to be able to breathe clean air (94%). 


Despite predictions by UNICEF that by 2050 air pollution will become the leading cause of child mortality, clean air is currently not among children’s rights defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is not formally recognised worldwide. In light of this and the overwhelming support from children globally through the polling, Global Action Plan and Blueair today launches the “Freedom to breathe” campaign.


The campaign aims to empower young people globally to jointly call on the United Nations to acknowledge their fundamental right to clean air.


As part of the campaign, a school’s programme is educating children on the importance of breathing clean air and what they can do to minimise their exposure to common sources of harmful pollution. This is being delivered through local delivery partners in cities from each of the four surveyed countries which have some of the worst levels of recorded pollution – London, Beijing, Delhi, and Los Angeles.


Sonja Graham, CEO at Global Action Plan, says: It is astounding that clean air is not among the rights of children worldwide. Access to clean air is vital for children to be able to live long healthy lives and realise their full potential. Children have the right to clean water, a safe home, why do they not have a right to clean air to breathe?” 



Action for Clean Air

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