17 million babies breathing toxic air worldwide

UNICEF  UNI172848/Singh

Village Kuniya Mainpat Block Dist Surguja Chhattisgarh India. 2013

The UNICEF report notes that breathing in particular air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development which he said can set children back and have a lasting effect on their progress in life.

The report said further research was needed to study the full impact of air pollution on children's developing brains. It also benefits their societies – realized in reduced health care costs, increased productivity and a safer, cleaner environment for everyone, ” he stressed.

A young child's brain is vulnerable: by a smaller dosage of toxic chemicals, as compared to an adult's; as they breathe more rapidly; and because their physical defences and immunities are not fully developed.

Satellite imagery used to assess pollution levels around the world found that South Asian countries accounted for 12.2 million of the total number of affected children but that there is also a growing problem in African cities.

The paper outlines how certain toxic pollution particles damage growing babies' brains. Then, specific air pollutant particles such as magnetite can lead to oxidative stress which is often the cause of neurodegenerative diseases.

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.

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

Provide better waste management options to prevent open burning of harmful chemicals.

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.

UNICEF urged more efforts to cut pollution, and also to reduce children's exposure to the poisonous smog which has frequently reached hazardous levels in Indian cities in recent weeks.

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.

Finally, as reducing children's exposure begins with understanding the quality of air they are breathing, the report endorses improved knowledge and monitoring of air pollution.

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