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Heavy air pollution putting babies' brains at risk

07 December 2017

About 17 million babies worldwide live in areas where outdoor air pollution is six times the recommended limit, and their brain development is at risk, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) said on Wednesday. This can have devastating health effects, including potentially putting their brain development at risk.

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

Babies in South Asia are worst affected, with more than 12 million living in areas with pollution six times higher than safe levels.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains, thus, their future".

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NEW DELHI | The united Nations has drawn Wednesday to sound the alarm about the dangers posed by air pollution to the developing brains of babies, a scourge that particularly affects the Asian.

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

A young child's brain is vulnerable: by a smaller dosage of toxic chemicals, as compared to an adult's; as they breathe more rapidly; and because their physical defences and immunities are not fully developed.

The ultra-fine particles in city pollution can damage the blood-brain barrier - a delicate membrane that protects the brain from toxic substances. Then, specific air pollutant particles such as magnetite can lead to oxidative stress which is often the cause of neurodegenerative diseases.

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The first and foremost step that each one of us should take is towards reducing air pollution as much as possible.

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.

For their part, parents can reduce children's exposure in the home to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products, cook stoves and heating fires.

Lastly, be aware about the air pollution levels near your area.

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The report said further research was needed to study the full impact of air pollution on children's developing brains.

Heavy air pollution putting babies' brains at risk