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UNICEF Says 17 Million Babies At Risk From Toxic Air

06 December 2017

The report urges steps be taken to reduce the impact of air pollution on babies' growing brains.

Across the globe, almost 17 million babies under the age of 1 live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than global limits, causing them to breathe dangerously toxic air, according to a new report from UNICEF. Air pollution has known links to asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

NEW DELHI | The united Nations has drawn Wednesday to sound the alarm about the dangers posed by air pollution to the developing brains of babies, a scourge that particularly affects the Asian. With 136 million children under the age of one globally, that equates to about one in eight worldwide. The variety of types of pollutants that are in the air across different environments make it hard to determine the full impact of air pollution.

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.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains, thus, their future".

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.

"Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children", Lake added.

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.

Brain development in the first 1,000 days of a child's life is critical for their learning, growth and for them "being able to do everything that they want and aspire to in life", he said.

Rees said masks help "but very importantly they have to have good filters and they also have to fit children's faces well". A further four million are at risk in East Asia and the Pacific. Though few places top six times the recommended pollution density, UNICEF reported in 2016 that overall 2 billion children breathed bad air.