Millions of babies are breathing in toxic air, UNICEF report says

The findings come at a time when India, particularly in the north, is facing a serious crisis due to rising levels of pollution.

Danger in the Air, notes that breathing in particulate air pollution can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development – with lifelong implications and setbacks.

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.

"Not only do pollutants harm babies' developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains, and thus, their futures", Anthony Lake, UNICEF's executive director, said.

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 worldwide limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The pollution " will impact the learning of the children, their memories, their language skills and motor", said to AFP Nicholas Rees, author of the report.

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Air pollution has already been linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other long-term respiratory diseases.

Finally, as reducing children's exposure begins with understanding the quality of air they are breathing, the report endorses improved knowledge and monitoring of air pollution.

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.

There are 136 million children under the age of 1 globally, which means one in eight are being exposed to toxic air, the United Nations children's fund said. 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. A study reported a four-point drop in the IQ by the age of five when kids aare exposed to air pollution, .

Any air pollution above the World Health Organization's recommended limit is potentially harmful for children, and risks grow as pollution worsens, UNICEF said.

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

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