Radical decarbonisation in cities has the potential to dramatically improve children’s health, the study said

Improved urban air quality as a result of reduced carbon emissions could lead to a significant reduction in childhood asthma, premature births and unborn unhealthy babies, according to a study by researchers at the London School of Medicine. hygiene and tropical medicine (LSHTM).

The study is part of Children, Cities and Climate, the first global initiative to combine an analysis of children’s health benefits from radical decolonization, an understudied but growing field of research, with a study asking young people what cities in they also live the air they breathe.

The modeling study, which is yet to be tested by partners, estimates that if the 16 cities included in the analysis reduce air pollution to zero, more than 20,000 cases of childhood asthma, more than 43,000 premature births and more than 22 000 with low birth weight. births can be prevented annually in the 16 cities. This represents almost a quarter of the current number of asthma cases in these cities and a reduction of about 10% for adverse birth outcomes.

At the city level, the results showed:

  • Los Angeles, Mexico City and Manila will see the largest reductions in childhood asthma per year, with 7,200, 5,700 and 4,000 respectively prevented.
  • 1,700 fewer cases of asthma would occur in London, the third largest number after Los Angeles and Mexico City when it comes to preventing cases per 100,000 population.
  • Dhaka, Manila and Lahore will record the largest reductions in premature births per year, with 23,800, 7,000 and 4,600 prevented cases, respectively. The same cities will receive the greatest benefits for low birth weight births, preventing 13,500, 2,500 and 3,100 cases.
  • Dhaka, Bhubaneswar and Jaipur will see the greatest reduction in adverse birth outcomes when viewed in relation to the number of births each year (prevented cases per 100,000 births).

Although the benefits can generally be expected to be greater in more polluted cities, the authors note that more data are needed to assess the true extent of the burden in those cities where the main published health information is more -Less available or current.

This study comes at a critical juncture before COP26 and shows the opportunity we have to improve the health of young people while contributing to the fight against climate change. The findings serve as convincing evidence of the health benefits of reducing carbon emissions for our children. “

Professor Alan Dangur, Director of the Center for Climate Change and Planetary Health at LSHTM

Dr James Milner, a co-researcher on Children, Cities and Climate, said: “The health benefits for adults of reducing carbon emissions have been extensively researched, but there is less evidence of side effects for children and young people. This analysis addresses a critical knowledge gap in research and serves as a basis for further research into the intersection of climate change, urban air pollution and children’s health. “

The team modeled the health benefits in 16 global cities by assessing the severity of various health outcomes caused by air pollution at current levels and for levels corresponding to a global zero-level scenario. The researchers assessed the contribution of various sectors, including domestic energy use, energy production, industry and transport, to concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and then removed them to represent levels of air pollution at net-zero in each city.

By reviewing the literature, the researchers also identified several other outcomes for children’s health that could be improved measurably with cleaner air, including: lung growth, risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and cognitive development.

In parallel with the modeling study, the researchers surveyed 3,222 young people (aged 13-25), parents of young children and expectant parents from 59 cities around the world and found that:

  • Four out of ten young people think that air pollution is one of the three worst things for their city, second only to traffic and congestion. The young people blamed motor vehicles, factories, rubbish burning and construction for air pollution in their city.
  • Four out of ten said their city was becoming a better place to live, while a third said it was getting worse.

To ensure that broad views were captured, the survey was provided in ten languages ​​and promoted through social media posts that targeted the same 16 cities as those included in the benefit analysis.

Dr Robert Hughes, a clinical research associate at LSHTM and a co-researcher on children, cities and climate, said: “In addition to trying to understand the science that connects the health of young urban people and the air they breathe, we also wanted to hear young people. people as part of this work. We first modeled a radical, ambitious decolonization – something that young people have been advocating for some time. Then we systematically collected the opinions and ideas of young people from all over the world.

“It’s astonishing, though perhaps unsurprising, how many young people are raising air pollution as a problem. They also shared many creative and ambitious ideas on how we can work together to improve our urban environment. Our study among young people should breathe new life into the action against air pollution. “

Participants had recommendations for improving urban design, urban mobility, healthcare, education and job opportunities. They also emphasized fair access to basic services as a prerequisite for achieving broader goals and that inequality, corruption and lack of climate awareness are structural barriers that need to be overcome.

Responding to the study, John Bonifacio, educational coordinator for youth advocates for climate action (Fridays For Future Philippines), said: “Localized research like this can empower and mobilize young people on climate issues and confirm the daily our experience. “

Ishita Yadav, co-facilitator of the YOUNGO Cities working group, said: “Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health and young people are among the worst affected. Mobilizing young people to tackle air quality problems is a unique opportunity to improve the situation. “

The Children, Cities and Climate Initiative includes a wide range of activities to engage young people in research, including a media partnership with Shujaaz Inc. in East Africa, a program for young scientists in London and a competition for art, design and music in Zimbabwe.

Tino Mavimba, coordinator of the Art of Health Breathe In competition, said: “Young people in Zimbabwe see air pollution as an important issue, but they contribute to positive change and inspire others through the creative arts.”

The findings will be presented on Friday, 29you October at COY16, the Glasgow Youth Summit, where young people from around the world will gather in preparation for COP26.


London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

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