Air pollution can impair brain development in babies, warns UNICEF report

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About 17 million babies worldwide live in areas where outdoor air pollution is six times the recommended limit, and their brain development is at risk, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

“Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs – they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures, ” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

India topped the list of countries with babies at risk, followed by China.

Its report, "Danger in the air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children", states that breathing in particulate air pollution can both undermine cognitive development and damage brain tissue.

UNICEF claimed that all over the world, around seventeen million infants under the age of one are living in such highly polluted areas, out of which approximately 12.2 million of them live in South Asia.

Air pollution has already been linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other long-term respiratory diseases.

Pollutants inhaled by pregnant women may pass through the placenta and disturb the development of the brain of the foetus.

The report highlights the relationship between pollution and brain functions " like memory and verbal IQ and non-verbal, test results, lower scores among schoolchildren, as well as other neurological problems ".

NEW DELHI | The united Nations has drawn Wednesday to sound the alarm about the dangers posed by air pollution to the developing brains of babies, a scourge that particularly affects the Asian. The variety of types of pollutants that are in the air across different environments make it hard to determine the full impact of air pollution.

"As more and more of the world urbanises, and without adequate protection and pollution reduction measures, more children will be at risk in the years to come".

The paper outlines urgent steps to reduce the impact of air pollution on babies' growing brains, including immediate actions for parents to decrease children's exposure at home to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products, cook stoves and heating fires.

The air pollution level has been consistently 10 points above the safe zone. "A mask that does not fit the face well won't work".

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