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Children are 37% more exposed to air pollution than adults

Air pollution is costly. A recent European Court of Auditors (ECA) report estimates the EU spends between 330 and 940 billion euros per year on health-related costs of air pollution. New research shows that children are 37% more exposed to air pollution than adults.

The research by German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe measured nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution in 500 street locations in six cities over a one month period this spring and summer. Dorothee Saar, head of traffic and air pollution control for Deutsche Umwelthilfe, said: “Our research is a picture almost certainly reflected in cities across Europe. NO2 is emitted close to the ground and therefore impacts pets and children more than adults. It’s a matter of physics.”

The health impact

Readings were taken at a height of one and two metres; a proxy for exposure to children versus adults. In the vast majority of locations, NO2 levels were higher at one metre, averaging 7.2 percent higher, with 37 percent more NO2 in one location. NO2 comes mainly from diesel engines and is linked to serious health impacts, such as dementia, lung and heart diseases.

The health effects of air pollution are more acute for babies and young children than adults, according to the Royal College of Physicians. Exposure to toxic particulates during these critical early stages of development can leave a child with stunted lungs, with respiratory conditions like asthma and potentially even reduced brain development.

On October 3rd the European Parliament voted to raise car efficiency standards. Ahead of the critical vote health organisations launched a hard-hitting video that graphically simulates the effect of car pollution.

EU Parliament pushes for cleaner cars on EU roads by 2030

Transport is a major contributor to urban air pollution. According to the World Health Organisation road transport is estimated to be responsible for up to 30% of particulate emissions (PM) in European cities and up to 50% of PM emissions in OECD countries – mostly due to diesel traffic.

The European Parliament drafted a law that would require a reduction in greenhouse emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 for new cars in the European Union. The report was adopted with 389 votes to 239 and 41 abstentions. EU ministers also adopted their common position on 9 October. Negotiations with MEPs for a first reading agreement started on 10 October.

Miriam Dalli a member of the European Parliament and the rapporteur said: “Achieving the European Parliament’s support for a 40% CO2 emissions target by 2030 was no mean feat and I am proud of the successful result achieved. Equally important is the 20% emissions target for 2025. This legislation goes beyond reducing harmful emissions and protecting the environment. It looks at setting the right incentives for manufacturers; it encourages investment in the infrastructure; it proposes a just transition for workers. Now, I look forward to representing the European Parliament and negotiating on its behalf for strong legislation with the European Council and the European Commission”.

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist. She is also the Community Manager and Events Manager of Child in the City.

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