Pollution can permanently damage a child's brain

Pollution can permanently damage a child's brain

Almost 17 million babies under the age of one are living in places where air pollution is "at least six times higher" than worldwide limits, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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

Even as the National Capital and adjoining regions are grappling smog and air pollution for over a month now, the issue has been raised at the highest worldwide level as United Nations global Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has taken a serious view of the situation.

Brain development in the first 1,000 days of a child's life is critical for their learning, growth and for them "being able to do everything that they want and aspire to in life", he said.

Unicef said breathing particulate air pollution could damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development. "It also benefits their societies - realized in reduced health care costs, increased productivity and a safer, cleaner environment for everyone", he stressed.

Air pollutants inhaled during pregnancy can affect the developing brain of a foetus, with potential lifelong effects, says the report.

Scientific findings about the links with brain development are not yet conclusive, but rapidly growing evidence is "definitely reason for concern", UNICEF's Nicholas Rees, the report's author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ultrafine toxic particles can enter the body through the bloodstream and travel to the brain, damaging its barrier and causing neuro-inflammation.

The report explains how the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in areas of high automobile traffic could result in loss of or damage to white matter in the brain.

It further recommends improving children's overall health to bolster their resilience, and promotes exclusive breastfeeding and good nutrition.

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

"Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children", Lake added.

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

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