Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Babies' brains damaged by pollution, Unicef says

Babies' brains damaged by pollution, Unicef says

"But a growing body of scientific research points to a potential new risk that air pollution poses to children's lives and futures: its impact on their developing brains", UNICEF said.

According to a report, 17 million babies around the world are at serious risk of brain and lung damage because of air pollution. Excessive air pollution could put brain development at risk. 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 report entitled Danger in the Air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children also notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development - with lifelong implications and setbacks. Air pollution has known links to asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

The report urges parents to reduce children's exposure to harmful chemicals, including from tobacco products and cooking stoves.

These include investing in renewable sources of energy to cut air pollution, increasing the amount of green spaces in urban areas, and improving both knowledge and monitoring of air pollution.

“Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children.


A UNICEF report released on Wednesday, Dec 6 - a day after the first International Smog Day - says babies in South Asia face the danger of poor brain development due to air pollution.

Satellite imagery reveals that South Asia has the largest proportion of babies under the age of one living in the worst-affected areas, with 12.2 million babies residing where outdoor air pollution exceeds six times global limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Satellite imagery analyzed by UNICEF indicates that 12.2 million of the children exposed to severe air pollution live in South Asia.

"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.

According to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" report for 2017, almost 40 percent of the United States' population still lives in counties that have unhealthful levels of air pollution.

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

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