Pollution can permanently damage a child's brain

AIRPOLLUTION

The Unicef report also said that South Asia had the largest proportion of babies living in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than global limits (10 micrograms per cubic metre).

"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs - they can permanently damage their developing brains - and, thus, their futures", UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press release.

Reducing children's exposure in the areas of high air pollution is also very important.

The report notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development - with lifelong implications and setbacks.

The brains of developing children are especially vulnerable because they can be harmed by smaller doses of toxic chemicals compared to adults' brains, the report states.

The report finds a possible link between prenatal exposures and delayed development of an infant's brain, along with psychological and behavioural problems that may occur later in childhood.

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.

The fine particles of urban pollution can damage the blood-brain barrier, the membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances, exacerbating the risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly.

Other types of pollution particles, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can damage parts of the brain that are responsible for helping neurons communicate, the foundation for babies' learning and development.

UNICEF warns that as more countries grow into modern, urban societies, governments have failed to provide "adequate protection and pollution reduction measures" to protect young children.

It also urged public authorities to invest in cleaner, renewable energy, and to make it feasible for children to travel at times of day when pollution is lower, as well as to make sure major sources of pollution are not located near schools, clinics or hospitals.

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

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