Mother’s Day: How can moms protect children from air pollution?
Mothers wish that their children can thrive in a healthy environment, free from the dangers of air pollution. Across the world, there are mothers taking action to fight for cleaner air for their children; in Hong Kong, we are also working tirelessly to promote air quality improvement measures to create a safer and healthier environment for our next generation, so that mothers can have peace of mind.
News around the world
Study: Air pollutants impair foetal development
As children breathe faster and their bodies are still developing, air pollution is particularly harmful to their health; in fact, foetuses, while they are still in the womb, are being affected as well.
In April 2023, the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London published a review of a decade of scientific studies into air pollution . The team looked at over 35,000 findings from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution, the Royal College of Physicians, the Health Effects Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, concluding that air pollution causes harm at all stages of life.
The review stated that air pollution particles inhaled by the mother will lead to adverse effects on foetal development and also make the fetus vulnerable. Chemicals associated with pollution can enter a pregnant woman’s blood, altering its flow, which could potentially slow or delay foetal growth.
The review also found links between air pollution and the health of newborns in the first weeks of life, birth weight, miscarriages and stillbirths. More than 20 million babies with low birth weights are born every year and more than 15 million are born prematurely, according to the WHO.
Act for clean air
Moms taking action
With more and more studies pointing to the effects of air pollution on foetuses and children, mothers are left with no choice but to take action to fight for healthy air for their children.
Ella Kissi-Debrah was a young girl from London who died at the age of nine from respiratory failure caused by severe asthma. In 2020, a coroner ruled that her death was caused by air pollution. Since her daughter’s death, Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, has worked to raise awareness of the link between air pollution and respiratory illness. She founded the Ella Roberta Foundation and has used her personal story to raise public awareness, to push for having UK’s air pollution limits align with the WHO guidelines, and to educate health professionals on the issue. Rosamund is now one of the most significant figures in the global fight against air pollution.
(Photo source: The Ella Roberta Foundation)
Mums for Lungs, another organization based in London, was founded in 2017 by a group of mothers who were on maternity leave. As they were walking around the streets of UK with their newborns, they became aware of the toxic levels of air pollution and decided to come together to safeguard the future generation. Their vision is to campaign for clean air for everyone, particularly children and babies, as soon as possible. Their advocacies include School Streets that prohibit cars, active travel, and banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. Now they have grown into a network for not only mothers but for anyone who want cleaner air.
(Photo source: Mums for Lungs)
In the US, Moms Clean Air Force has over 1.5 million members across the country, with a common goal to protect children from air pollution and climate change. The organization believes that mothers possess passion and power, and as they will do everything they can for the safety of their children, they should unite to ensure that their children can enjoy clean air right now and in the future – “Because sometimes, being a good mom means being an active citizen.”
(Photo source: Moms Clean Air Force)
Our latest work
Clean Air Schools for Hong Kong
So what can we in Hong Kong do to provide cleaner air for our children? Clean Air Network’s currently running initiative “Clean Air Schools for Hong Kong” (CASHK) is aimed at improving the health and well-being of our precious children by highlighting the importance of clean air in educational institutions.
- Promoting serene breathing spaces
A gentle whisper of fresh air can make all the difference for our little ones. CASHK’s goal is to create serene breathing spaces where children can inhale nature’s purity without the interference of harmful pollutants. By incorporating measures such as real-time air quality monitoring, effective ventilation and filtration systems, this project aims to create environments that reduce respiratory issues and allow children to experience calm, unhindered breaths.
- Cultivating optimal development
Studies reveal that exposure to air pollution can disrupt cognitive abilities, hindering the natural growth and academic progress of children. Through CASHK, educational institutions become sanctuaries of clean air that foster optimal cognitive development.
- Nuturing gentle stewardship
By raising awareness about air pollution and its impact on health, CASHK nurtures responsible and caring individuals. Children learn to embrace the significance of clean air, adopt sustainable practices, and become guardians of the environment. These lessons cultivate a sense of responsibility and environmental consciousness that children carry throughout their lives.
This Mother’s Day, let us celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of mothers who have been steadfast in their fight for healthy air for their children. Clean Air Network will continue to work through CASHK and other projects to build a brighter future for children, mothers and the generations to come.