According to the latest air pollution report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), breathing polluted air “causes the premature death of at least 1,200 children across Europe each year,” the Guardian reports, while several thousand more suffer from physical and mental health problems with stable consequences. In short, the Old Continent “is betraying its children” when it comes to prevention, the British newspaper writes, because air safety standards are below acceptable levels.

Gerardo Sanchez Martinez, an environment and health expert at the Aea, told the newspaper, “You cannot think of children as little adults when it comes to air pollution. They suffer the most, already during pregnancy and they suffer the effects then in kindergarten and even beyond. We are failing our children on air pollution.”

The Guardian reports that it has been shown that “high exposure to pollutants in children during childhood inhibits their lung capacity, causes asthma, leads to higher levels of respiratory disease and ear infections and increases the risk of allergies, and can also affect brain development.” The fact is that children are more exposed to polluted air than adults “because they have a faster respiratory rate, are closer to the ground and are outdoors more.”

According to the study published Monday by the European agency, “about 110,000 years of life are lost each year in Europe for people under the age of 18.”

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