Medicine

Air pollution, smog may permanently damage children's brain, warns UNICEF report

Air pollution, smog may permanently damage children's brain, warns UNICEF report

"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.

The report comes at a time when north India, particularly Delhi and adjoining areas, battle high pollution levels with air quality swaying from "very poor" to "emergency" levels, restricting physical activity and forcing closure of schools. Excessive air pollution could put brain development at risk.

About 17 million babies worldwide live in areas where outdoor air pollution is six times the recommended limit, and their brain development is at risk, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

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.

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.

Air pollutants inhaled during pregnancy can affect the developing brain of a foetus, with potential lifelong effects, says the report.

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The report mentions that toxic air can also lead to anxiety disorder and may affect IQ level and memory pattern in kids.

Air pollution is closely associated with asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections, it said.

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. "But this growing body of research does provide an indication of the scale of harm", said the UNICEF.

"Protecting children from air pollution is in the best interests of the Indian society - a benefit realised in reduced health costs", Westerbeek said.

The report sets out a range of ways that the impact of air pollution on babies' brains could be lowered.

The united Nations is calling on governments to intensify the fight against pollution as well as to strengthen the protection of children, including through the use of facial masks and filtration systems of the air.


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