In France, poor children “are more vulnerable to air pollution”, warn Unicef ​​and the Climate Action Network

The Climate Action Network and Unicef ​​France warn, in a report published Thursday, October 14, about the consequences of air pollution on children in poverty. More than three in four French children breathe polluted air, the organizations recall in a press release. “This figure is explained by a higher exposure to air pollution in the cities, where most children live”, they point out.

The youngest are “particularly vulnerable” to these pollutants “because of the immaturity of their bodies and the frequency with which they breathe, likely to lead to numerous pathologies (asthma, allergies, etc.)”. Poverty is a factor that can accentuate this phenomenon, in particular because “the poor populations live more in the cities, where the level of pollution is higher”.

The Climate Action Network and Unicef ​​note that, depending on the city, “poor children are not systematically more exposed to outdoor air pollution than children from more advantaged backgrounds.” Thus in Lille (North), exposure to nitrogen dioxide “increases with the level of socio-economic disadvantage”, most “the reverse is observed in Paris”.

However, the organizations point out that “it is more difficult for poor populations to escape unfavorable living conditions for lack of sufficient resources”. They are therefore more likely to accumulate several harmful exposures “, while studies show that “the socio-economically disadvantaged areas have fewer green spaces, parks (…) or other resources likely to offset less favorable living conditions”, points out the report.

“Poor children are thus victims of a double penalty: they are more vulnerable to air pollution as children and this vulnerability is exacerbated by their socio-economic status and that of their parents.”

Jodie Soret, in charge of relations with the public authorities for Unicef ​​France

in the report made public on October 14, 2021

Faced with this phenomenon, the two organizations call for better taking into account “social disfavour” in public policies to combat air pollution. They make five recommendations in this regard, such as “improve the consideration of children in the development of environmental health policies”, “socially support changes in mobility” (in particular by increasing the bicycle fund by 500 million euros per year and by reinforcing the conversion premium for the most modest households) or even better protection of the health of the youngest “by strengthening the requirements applicable to establishments receiving children”.

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