More than three in four French children breathe polluted air and those from families in poverty are generally more exposed than others. This Thursday, October 14, Unicef and the Climate Action Network are publishing a report on the subject and formulating their recommendations to combat this phenomenon.
The question is all the more serious as the youngest are “particularly vulnerable” to air pollution, “because of the immaturity of their bodies and the frequency with which they breathe”, explain the two organizations. By inhaling polluted air, all children can contract pathologies such as asthma or allergies. If poverty is an aggravating factor, it is above all because “the poor populations live more in the cities, where the level of pollution is higher”, specifies the report.
In France, more than 3 in 4 children breathe polluted air.
– UNICEF France (@UNICEF_france) October 14, 2021
It should be noted that within urban areas, children from precarious families are not always more exposed to pollutants than those from more advantaged backgrounds: the situation varies from one city to another. Thus, data from UNICEF and the Climate Action Network reveal that exposure to nitrogen dioxide “increases with the level of socio-economic disadvantage” in Lille, but “the reverse is observed in Paris”.
The fact remains that “it is more difficult for the poor populations to escape unfavorable living conditions for lack of sufficient resources”. Studies show that “socio-economically disadvantaged areas have less green spaces, parks and […] or other resources likely to offset less favorable living conditions, ”the report points out. Result: the people who live there are “more likely to accumulate several harmful exposures”.
This is why Unicef and the Climate Action Network are calling for “social disfavour” to be better taken into account in public policies to combat air pollution. Their work identifies five recommendations in this direction, including the need to “socially support changes in mobility”. On this point, the two organizations propose to increase the bicycle fund by 500 million euros per year and to strengthen the conversion premium for the poorest households.
The report also underlines the importance of taking children more into account “in the development of environmental health policies”. This requires, among other things, the strengthening of “requirements applicable to establishments” welcoming the youngest. So many measures aimed at removing these little French children from a “double penalty”: increased vulnerability to air pollution due to their young age, “exacerbated by their socio-economic status”.