What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children

By: George Monbiot

Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.

The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.

Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:

  • It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives
  • It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.
  • It can damage the development of their brains. Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.
  • It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
  • It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.
  • It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.
  • Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.
  • Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.

By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.

We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal.

Groups like Living Streets can help schools to turn this around. Together we can protect our children from harm.

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