Air pollution causes long-term health problems for children, and denies them basic human rights

Air pollution is shaving billions off the Chinese economy, and putting children at risk of a long-term health crisis

Joanne Ma |

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Unicef UK is calling for government funding for a national plan to protect children from the effects of poisonous air.

Hong Kong scientists have found that air pollution from the smog-inducing ozone and fine particles may be shaving an estimated 267 billion yuan (HK$304.5 billion) off the Chinese economy each year in the form of early deaths and lost food production.

The researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong got to this figure by calculating the social costs of air pollution claimed by the public health system and reduced crop yields.

In August, scientists warned that although air pollution in Hong Kong seems to be better controlled, the city is still choking. One cause is an invisible, lesser-known pollutant lurking in the lower atmosphere: ground-level ozone.

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Dr Alfred Tam, an honorary consultant of the Hong Kong Asthma Society, told Young Post yesterday that bad air quality can make life more difficult for asthma sufferers.

While asthma is mostly caused by genetics, dirty air can make it worse. Tam added that children and teenagers are more likely to develop asthma than adults because their organs are still growing.

In Britain, pollution is seen as denying children there their basic right to breathe clean air, The Guardian newspaper reports.

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Children there face a long-term health crisis because of the poisonous fumes they breath in on their way to and from school, says children’s charity Unicef.

The organisation, which described the situation in Britain as “horrific”, will make protecting children from air pollution its priority across the country in the months ahead.

New research is being released all the time showing us how these toxic emissions can lead to devastating and possibly lifelong health impacts, from stunted lung growth to asthma, said Alastair Harper from Unicef UK.

Unicef UK is asking the British government to tackle the issue, and wants government funding for a national plan to protect children from the effects of poisonous air.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda