According to a report released by the United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, on Wednesday, 17 million babies younger than 1 year old breathe toxic air. This can have devastating health effects, including potentially putting their brain development at risk.
"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains, and thus, their futures", Anthony Lake, UNICEF's executive director, said.
"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". Excessive air pollution could put brain development at risk.
Of these 17 million babies, about 12.2 million live in South Asia while 4.3 million babies live in East Asia and the Pacific.
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The paper outlines how certain toxic pollution particles damage growing babies' brains. Some particles, such as ultrafine magnetite, can also enter through the olfactory nerve and the gut and can disrupt how the body metabolizes oxygen, which has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
The report explains how the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in areas of high automobile traffic could result in loss of or damage to white matter in the brain.
Even as the National Capital and adjoining regions are grappling smog and air pollution for over a month now, the issue has been raised at the highest worldwide level as United Nations global Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has taken a serious view of the situation.
It also urged public authorities to invest in cleaner, renewable energy, and to make it feasible for children to travel at times of day when pollution is lower, as well as to make sure major sources of pollution are not located near schools, clinics or hospitals.
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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 urges parents to reduce children's exposure to harmful chemicals, including from tobacco products and cooking stoves.
The pollution " will impact the learning of the children, their memories, their language skills and motor", said to AFP Nicholas Rees, author of the report.
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