GLASGOW — A delegation of mothers from Brazil, Britain, India, Nigeria, Poland and South Africa, including one whose daughter last year became the first person in Britain to have air pollution officially listed as her cause of death, arrived at the COP26 climate summit this week with a message to leaders: End the financing of fossil fuels.
On Friday, six mothers delivered a letter to Alok Sharma, the president of the Glasgow gathering, in which they called on world leaders to take action to limit air pollution and protect children who are struggling with its effects. The letter was signed by nearly 500 parent groups from 44 countries.
“I am trying to get justice for my daughter,” said Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose 9-year-old daughter suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013. Ms. Kissi-Debrah said that after reading studies about the dangers of air pollution, she realized that her daughter was not alone.
“This is affecting so many children,” she said in an interview.
The impact of air pollution on human health has become a central issue at the summit, as a growing body of research indicates that climate change has exacerbated health risks around the world.
A study published this year in the journal Nature Climate Change found that more than a third of heat-related deaths in many parts of the world could be attributed to the extra warming associated with climate change. The study was based on climate modeling in 43 countries.
In addition, drier soil contributes to malnutrition, and warming temperatures have contributed to higher numbers of dengue- and malaria-carrying mosquitoes, studies have found.
Air pollution poses one of the biggest threats to human health, according to the World Health Organization. In Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, air pollution in 2019 killed more Indians than any other risk factor. Children from poor families, who spend more time outdoors and are more likely to use wood-burning stoves, are at a much greater risk, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
A W.H.O. report published in September found that exposure to polluted air causes seven million premature deaths each year and can lead to health risks like reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. In 2019, more than 90 percent of the world’s population lived in areas where concentrations of pollutants exceeded the W.H.O. guidelines.
Kamila Kadzidlowska, an activist from Poland who said her three sons had respiratory health problems because of air pollution, said that the story of her children was not unique.
“It’s the story of most of the parents of small children in Poland,” Ms. Kadzidlowska, who signed the letter to leaders, said at a New York Times event in Glasgow. “I never, ever thought that I would have to fight for something so obvious like the right to breathe clean air.”