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06 December 2017, 08:20 | Melissa Porter
Money Sharma AFP
Seventeen million babies worldwide live in areas where air pollution runs six times the recommended limit, UNICEF reports.
Danger in the Air, notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development – with lifelong implications and setbacks.
The findings come at a time when India, particularly in the north, is facing a serious crisis due to rising levels of pollution.
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.
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.
"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. Air pollution has known links to asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
"No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air and no society can afford to ignore air pollution", said Lake.
The report highlights the relationship between pollution and brain functions " like memory and verbal IQ and non-verbal, test results, lower scores among schoolchildren, as well as other neurological problems ". 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 report recommends wider use of filter masks in developing countries and for children to not be allowed to travel outside during spikes in pollution.
“Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children.
The author of the "Danger In The Air" report, Nicholas Rees, told AFP that toxic pollution is "impacting children's learning, their memories, linguistic and motor skills".
The report urges parents to reduce children's exposure to harmful chemicals, including from tobacco products and cooking stoves.
The air pollution level has been consistently 10 points above the safe zone.
"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.
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