17 million babies breathing toxic air worldwide


17 million babies breathing toxic air worldwide

The UN's children's agency, UNICEF, said Asia accounts for more than 16 million of the world's 17 million infants aged under one year living in areas with severe pollution - at least six times more than safe levels.

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

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 worldwide limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thus, it is not only the lungs which are most prone to the dangers of toxins and harmful pollutants the child's brain is equally affected.

A Unicef report states that toxic air severely affects children's brain development and may cause a permanent damage to their brains.

Scientific findings about the links with brain development are not yet conclusive, but rapidly growing evidence is "definitely reason for concern", UNICEF's Nicholas Rees, the report's author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Air pollution potentially affects children's brains through several mechanisms.

UNICEF's paper added that ultrafine pollution particles posed "an especially high risk" as they could more easily enter into the bloodstream and then travel through the body to the brain.

Other types of pollution particles, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can damage parts of the brain that are responsible for helping neurons communicate, the foundation for babies' learning and development.

Lake called on countries exceeding global limits to step up efforts to reduce air pollution.

Reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel combustion.

Improve children's overall health to improve their resilience, including the prevention and treatment of pneumonia, as well as the promotion of breastfeeding and good nutrition.

The report said further research was needed to study the full impact of air pollution on children's developing brains.

Lastly, be aware about the air pollution levels near your area.