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

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

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 global level as United Nations worldwide Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has taken a serious view of the situation.

The East Asia and Pacific region is home to some 4.3 million babies living in areas with pollution levels at least six times higher than global limits.

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.

Research has shown that air pollution can stunt growth, impact IQ and memory, and cause psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can go on to affect test scores in school.

"With one in eight babies breathing extremely polluted air, urgent steps to reduce air pollution must be taken now", said Nicholas Rees, a UNICEF policy specialist and author of the study.

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health".

Unicef reports says that these ultrafine particulates such as PM2.5 which easily enter the bloodstream, then travel to the brain which damages the blood-brain barrier, a very thin membrane in the brain that protects it from the toxic substances entering the brain.

"The levels of pollution in Asia are much higher than in London", she said.

These include investing in renewable sources of energy to cut air pollution, increasing the amount of green spaces in urban areas, and improving both knowledge and monitoring of air pollution.

Mr. Lake suggests that children should be saved from the toxicity in the air.

Parents can prevent damage by not exposing children to harmful fumes produced by tobacco products, cooking stoves and heating fires at home.

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. "But the fact that we now know that children's cognitive function can be impaired simply by the air they breathe - and the fact that so many young children are affected - is of extreme concern", said Justin Forsyth, deputy executive director of UNICEF.

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