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

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

Babies are also more susceptible to the effects of air pollution because they breathe more rapidly and their immune defenses are not fully developed.

The link between air pollution and respiratory diseases is well-established, but the United Nations Children's Fund, in a report on Tuesday, said there is a growing body of scientific research which shows that air pollution can permanently damage a child's 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.

Nearly 17 million babies across the world are breathing toxic air, which could be damaging the development of their brains, a report released by UNICEF on Wednesday claims.

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health".

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.

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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.

Its report, "Danger in the air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children", states that breathing in particulate air pollution can both undermine cognitive development and damage brain tissue.

UNICEF researchers add that the first 1,000 days of a child's life are critical to their long-term development and must be protected from hazards that threaten their physical and mental health.

"A lot of focus goes on making sure children have good quality education, but also important is the development of the brain itself", he added.

The majority of these babies - more than 12 million - are in South Asia, it said, in a study of children under one-year-old, using satellite imagery to identify worst-affected regions. A further four million are at risk in East Asia and the Pacific.

The European Environment Agency has found that polluted air kills half a million EU residents per year.

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