Toxic air puts 17 million babies' brains and lungs at risk

12 million babies in South Asia are exposed to air pollution six times the safe limit Unicef report

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains, thus, their future".

"But a growing body of scientific research shows a new potential risk posed by air pollution to the lives and futures of children: its impact on their developing brains", now says Unicef.

Nearly 17 million babies live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than global limits, causing them to breathe toxic air and potentially risking their brain development, according to a new paper released on Tuesday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Satellite imagery reveals that South Asia has the largest proportion of babies under the age of one living in the worst-affected areas, with 12.2 million babies residing where outdoor air pollution exceeds six times global limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air – and no society can afford to ignore air pollution, ” Mr. Lake concluded.

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 ".

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

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There are 136 million children under the age of 1 globally, which means one in eight are being exposed to toxic air, the United Nations children's fund said.

The United Nations report was titled as "Danger in the air", that states that brain damage can happen through several mechanisms.

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health".

"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".

UNICEF has suggested that immediate action must be taken to reduce air pollution amid emerging evidence.

It called for a greater use of masks, air filtration systems and for children to avoid travelling when pollution levels are at their highest.

"A lot of focus goes on making sure children have good quality education, but also important is the development of the brain itself", he added.

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