Babies in S Asia risk brain damage from breathing toxic air: UNICEF
Almost 17 million babies live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits, causing them to breathe toxic air and potentially risking their brain development, according to a new paper released 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 international limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The East Asia and Pacific region is home to some 4.3 million babies living in areas that exceed six times the limit.
Danger in the air, notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development - with lifelong implications and setbacks.
"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.
"Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children. It also benefits their societies - realised in reduced health care costs, increased productivity and a safer, cleaner environment for everyone," he stressed.
The paper shows that air pollution, like inadequate nutrition and stimulation, and exposure to violence during the critical first 1,000 days of life, can affect the development of their growing brains, according to UN News Centre.
It explains that ultrafine pollution particles are so small that they can enter the blood stream, travel to the brain, and damage the blood-brain barrier, which can cause neuro-inflammation. Some pollution
particles can cause neurodegenerative diseases while others can damage brain areas for learning and development. -UNB