Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is linked to health problems from childhood illnesses to heart disease and even dementia. It is also thought to affect children’s development.
Some 8.3 million under-18s live in local authority areas where levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide exceeded legal limits in 2015, according to analysis by the Labour Party of figures from the House of Commons Library. All children in London face illegal pollution levels, as the air quality limits were exceeded in all boroughs in the capital.
Around three-fifths (61 per cent) of youngsters were living in areas across the UK where pollution limits were breached in 2015.
The analysis suggests some 2.5 million under-fives were living in areas of the UK with illegally dirty air in 2015, which is 63 per cent of all children in the age group.
Outside London, Yorkshire and the Humber was the worst affected region, with an estimated 83 per cent of youngsters living in areas with illegal pollution, followed by the North East, North West and West Midlands.
Official estimates suggest compliance for levels of nitrogen dioxide will not be met until 2026.