Pollution can permanently damage a child's brain

The UN's children's agency, UNICEF, said Asia accounts for more than 16 million of the world's 17 million infants aged under one year living in areas with severe pollution - at least six times more than safe levels.

Satellite imagery used to assess pollution levels around the world found that South Asian countries accounted for 12.2 million of the total number of affected children but that there is also a growing problem in African cities.

The babies live in places where air pollution can be up to six times higher than global limits prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

"Protecting children from air pollution not only benefits children".

Air pollution for long has been known to cause several ailments related to breathing and general health and according to the United Nations Children's Fund report titled "Danger In the Air" air pollution can also permanently damage a child's brain.

Air pollution potentially affects children's brains through several mechanisms.

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.

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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.

UNICEF's paper added that ultrafine pollution particles posed "an especially high risk" as they could more easily enter into the bloodstream and then travel through the body to the brain.

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.

Reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel combustion.

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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