Contaminated air threatens millions of babies

Excessive air pollution could put brain development at risk.

The United Nations report had also stated that it is South Asia which has the largest percentage of babies that are living in areas where the pollution in air is at least around six times higher than the set global limits which happens to be ten micro grams for one cubic metre.

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

UNICEF urged more efforts to cut pollution, and also to reduce children's exposure to the poisonous smog which has frequently reached hazardous levels in Indian cities in recent weeks. Contamination above that limit could prove potentially harmful for children, with risks growing as exposure does.

A Unicef report states that toxic air severely affects children's brain development and may cause a permanent damage to their brains.

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

Of these 17 million babies, about 12.2 million live in South Asia while 4.3 million babies live in East Asia and the Pacific.

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Satellite imagery reveals that South Asia has the largest proportion of babies, 12.2 million among the global figure of 17 million babies, living in the worst affected areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds six times the worldwide levels, the report said.

India tops the list of countries with the highest number of babies exposed, followed by China, says Unicef in a report entitled "Danger In The Air" made public Wednesday.

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

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.

"But a growing body of scientific research points to a potential new risk that air pollution poses to children's lives and futures: its impact on their developing brains", UNICEF said.

"A lot of focus goes on making sure children have good quality education, but also important is the development of the brain itself", he added.

The European Environment Agency has found that polluted air kills half a million EU residents per year.

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