Air pollution can impair brain development in babies, warns UNICEF report

Air pollution for long has been known to cause several ailments related to breathing and general health and according to the United Nations Children's Fund report titled "Danger In the Air" air pollution can also permanently damage a child's brain.

The report comes at a time when Delhi and north Indian states are grappling with severe air pollution crisis.

The fine particles of urban pollution can damage the blood-brain barrier, the membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances, exacerbating the risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly.

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. Though few places top six times the recommended pollution density, UNICEF reported in 2016 that overall 2 billion children breathed bad air.

"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.

UNICEF claimed that all over the world, around seventeen million infants under the age of one are living in such highly polluted areas, out of which approximately 12.2 million of them live in South Asia.

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When there is an exposure of a pregnant women to pollutants, it harms them a lot. Research has also proven that there is a link between prenatal exposures to high levels of air pollution and even delays the development of kids, as well as affect the psychological and behavioural problems later during their childhood, which include symptoms of attention that deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression. "As yet, we know the minimum - but not the maximum - extent of the harm".

Raising awareness on the right of children to breathe clean air and hazardous impacts of air pollution on their health is an essential focus of the UNICEFs work, she added.

"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".

The worldwide limits relating to air pollution are set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Rees said masks help "but very importantly they have to have good filters and they also have to fit children's faces well".


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