Air pollution, smog may permanently damage children's brain, warns UNICEF report

The UNICEF report also states that South Asia has 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).

A UNICEF report released on Wednesday, Dec 6 - a day after the first International Smog Day - says babies in South Asia face the danger of poor brain development due to air pollution.

"But a growing body of scientific research shows a new potential risk posed by air pollution to the lives and futures of children: its impact on their developing brains", now says Unicef.

The links of pollution with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases in the long course are known for a long time.

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.

One study reports a four-point drop in IQ by the age of 5 among a sample of children exposed in utero to toxic air pollution, it said.

The World Health Organization recommends that the level of pollutants in the air not exceed 20 micrograms per cubic meter (.02 parts per million).

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

The paper urges parents to take steps to reduce children's exposure to harmful chemicals, including from tobacco products and cooking stoves.

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

“No child should have to breathe dangerously polluted air – and no society can afford to ignore air pollution, ” Mr. Lake concluded.

Rees said masks help "but very importantly they have to have good filters and they also have to fit children's faces well".

Satellite imagery analysed by UNICEF indicates that 12.2 million of these children live in South Asia. Though few places top six times the recommended pollution density, UNICEF reported in 2016 that overall 2 billion children breathed bad air.

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