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Air pollution may cause permanent damage to your child's brain

06 December 2017

In a statement Wednesday, UNICEF said that satellite imagery showed South Asia was home to the biggest proportion of babies - 12.2 million - living in the worst-affected areas.

Seventeen million babies under the age of one are breathing toxic air, putting their brain development at risk, the United Nations children's agency has warned.

India topped the list of countries with babies at risk, followed by China. Air pollution has known links to asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

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.

Scientists have not conclusively proved findings about air pollution's effects on brain development, but a rapidly growing body of evidence creates "reason for concern", UNICEF's Nicholas Rees, the report's author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Pollutants inhaled by pregnant women may pass through the placenta and disturb the development of the brain of the foetus.

One study reports a four-point drop in IQ by the age of 5 among a sample of children exposed in utero to toxic air pollution, it said.

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"No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air - and no society can afford to ignore air pollution", Lake said. "As yet, we know the minimum - but not the maximum - extent of the harm".

The World Health Organization recommends that the level of pollutants in the air not exceed 20 micrograms per cubic meter (.02 parts per million).

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

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

It called for a greater use of masks, air filtration systems and for children to avoid travelling when pollution levels are at their highest.

"A lot of focus goes on making sure children have good quality education - but also important is the development of the brain itself", Rees added. "A mask that does not fit the face well won't work".

Air pollution may cause permanent damage to your child's brain