Impact on babies and children

Our lungs develop in stages: in the womb, from birth until age three, and then up until adulthood. Because lungs are developing, exposure to air pollution in these stages has a greater impact on children’s health.

High air pollution is linked to low birth weight and premature births and being exposed to air pollution during pregnancy and after birth affects a baby’s lung function development.

There is a strong link between air pollution and the worsening of asthma symptoms; it may also play a part in causing asthma in some people. The more children with asthma are exposed to air pollution, the more they suffer with long-term respiratory symptoms. Higher amounts of air pollutants are associated with more asthma attacks, more hospital admissions and a higher death rate.

Exposure to air pollution is also linked to increases in coughs and bronchitis and increases the risk of bacterial pneumonia.

Scientists are beginning to study the effects of air pollution on the developing brain but more research is needed.